Back To Basics

Across The Board

What exactly is an information appliance? Presently, the term is being bandied about the technology industry rather loosely and is attached to a variety of equipment. In essence, however, information appliances allow for the creation, transmission or reception of information using powerful yet uncomplicated features.

"An information appliance is a piece of computing equipment with very targeted functionality," confirms Matthew Nordan, a computing strategies analyst at technology market research firm Forrester Research. Information appliances typically take one or two features you're already familiar with, such as faxing or receiving stock quotes through the Internet, and incorporate them into a simple device, such as a cell phone, a pager--even a commercial product like your microwave.

Hewlett-Packard's CapShare 910 is one example of an information appliance already on the market. This small, portable device has a simple purpose: to capture, store and share paper-based information. Press the capture button, run this CD player-sized device over a business card, magazine article or client contract, and it automatically converts all the data into digital format. The information can then be viewed on the built-in LCD screen, sent to any infrared-equipped printer or imported directly into a desktop PC or handheld device for e-mailing or faxing.

The latest version of the CapShare 910 ($699 street; also offers users the ability to share data with all of Hewlett-Packard's Windows CE 2.0 handheld and palmtop PCs. It has an extended battery life; rechargeable NiMH batteries (included) allow it to capture and work with up to 100 pages of information before having to recharge. Improved PC application integration supports the TIFF file format in addition to PDF.

Hewlett-Packard's latest version merely improves on the CapShare 910's basic functionality. Information appliances like these empower mobile professionals to complete work, capture information, and communicate simply and easily. They take the focus off how the equipment works and improve business productivity.

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This article was originally published in the June 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Back To Basics.

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