Palm OS Laptop Replacement Coming for Students

AlphaSmart has unveiled Dana, a portable device larger than a handheld and less expensive than a laptop, intended for students. Powered by Palm OS 4.1, Dana includes a full-size, integrated keyboard and a 560 by 160 pixel touch screen that is roughly 7.5 by 2.25 inches. It has 8 MB of memory and two SD/MMC slots. It will be sold to individuals for $400 and be available before this fall.

It will be sold to schools for $370 each, though there will be volume discounts.

The backlit, monochrome screen is 3.5 times wider than what's on the typical Palm OS handheld. The screen image can be rotated 90 degrees so it is 160 by 560. HandEra helped AlphaSmart with this larger screen.

Dana weighs two pounds. It is 12.4 inches wide, 9.3 inches deep and 1.9 inches thick. It is made of strong ABS polycarbonate plastic and has been designed to survive being mistreated. It comes with a rechargeable battery and an AC adapter. It can also run off three AA batteries.

It has a full-sized keyboard which can be configured as either QWERTY or Dvorak. Students can also use Graffiti, with the writing area appearing on either side of the screen for left - or right-handed users.

It has an infrared port and two USB ones and can be HotSynced like any other Palm OS model.

Dana comes with the standard Palm applications that have been resized for Dana's wide screen. It also comes with AlphaWord, a word processor with spell-checker and thesaurus that is compatible with Microsoft Word file format . This has been licenced from BlueNomad.

It also comes with PrintBoy from Bachmann Software, which provides direct printing from AlphaWord to IR or USB printers.

Also bundled with Dana is QuickOffice from Cutting Edge Software, which has a word processor and spreadsheet. These are special versions capable of using the screen in either its extra wide or extra tall configurations.

Other apps include powerOne Graph, FontBucket, CardPro, Palm Reader, ImagiMath, and ImagiProbe. Trial versions of popular Palm applications that have been reformatted for the wide screen are included on a CD-ROM

"AlphaSmart is focused on reducing the cost and complexity of computing for educators and students," said Manish Kothari, president of AlphaSmart. "Introduction of Dana helps further our goal of making it affordable and realistic to create a one-to-one ratio between students and computing devices that enhance learning."

The company is the developer of the AlphaSmart 3000, a low-cost, portable computer used by millions of students in the United States and throughout the world. it became a Palm OS licensee in August of last year.

"The introduction of AlphaSmart's Dana shows the potential for innovation with Palm OS," said David Nagel, chief executive officer of PalmSource. "The versatility of Palm OS, combined with AlphaSmart's education expertise, has enabled this breakthrough product that meets specific needs of the education market."

Thanks to Gilberto Abreu for the tip. -Ed

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Looks interesting...

Kaitou @ 6/17/2002 9:53:21 AM #
Wonder if this is just the first in a series of palm-laptops, but I am not sure if I can see a commercial niche for this device. Still for educational purposes, instead of carrying a laptop, this seems to be a pretty handy toy.

RE: Looks interesting...
kikan @ 6/17/2002 11:03:30 AM #
Maybe it's the beginning of PC replacement...

Aren't you fed-up to wait for Windows to boot, crash, take more and more memory to do basically the same thing as they did before, but with nicer icons or amazing sounds ?

How about something with a big screen, a keyboard, a touch screen (quite better system than a mouse, it's direct), some memory


low-power consumption, no crash, millions of apps (I mean thousands...) and a good look and feel which allow first time users as power user to feel good with their device. Just something useful, for the right price and compatible enough with market standard.

Of course, you may still need a big PC or Mac to do video editing and burn CDs, but for most average users, simple solution may be enough.

Remember GeoWorks Ensemble ? Why did they take so long to add Word Documents import/export ? If they did so just at the begining, they could still be alive...

Keep it simple...

RE: Looks interesting...
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 1:48:54 PM #
My understanding was that GeoWorks Ensemble became NewDeal. Is that correct?
Plus I think the old GeoWorks software is still in use for some other systems.

Commercial niche
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 3:21:32 PM #
How about in court, or somewhere else where someone needs a complete transcript of proceedings? Much easier than taking a laptop, more professional-looking than a standard handheld + keyboard, and cheaper than most other options.
RE: Looks interesting...
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 7:00:43 PM #
This is good for Palm OS platform.
RE: Looks interesting...
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/5/2002 5:33:30 PM #
looks messed up, better to buy a palm and get a keyboard, or even better by a gateway laptop for 700.


beebjunk @ 6/17/2002 9:55:13 AM #
Reminds me of the e-mate... Hope it does better though.

Adam Yap
The Australian Palm User Group
RE: Cute....
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 10:11:59 AM #
emate did ok, it's life was just cut short just about the time it started to build in interest.
RE: Cute....
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 3:27:55 PM #
emate was overpriced too, but a good idea. I've long thought that just such a device would be great for students, particularly if it could serve as a basic email device.

The problem I have with it though is that the screen is still too small (tho I like the expanded width) and the price is still too high. I would have preferred to see at least a five-inch diagonal (landscape orientation) with Sony's version of hi-res. If it had that -- even if it were monochrome, it would have been a much more marketable device. In its current form, it should be $100 cheaper...

But, I also have to commend; as the first Palm device with integrated keyboard and USB ports, this thing is really a kick-ass first-gen device. I look forward to the price coming down, the screen getting bigger, and the eventual integration of a basic color screen. Two thumbs up for concept and execution!

RE: Cute....
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 7:13:24 PM #
I just bought an emate and am about to put a wavelan card in it to get it going on my airport network (along with my PC, Ti PB and Palm/Xircom combo)

Just a shame the b-mate never made it out the door.. but you can theoretically upgrade the emate to the StrongARM...

Wrong price!

johnwong @ 6/17/2002 9:57:56 AM #
This price is not for students!

RE: Wrong price!
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 10:22:32 AM #
This will flop harder and faster than a parachuting whale (assuming it ever even reaches the market). With that out of the way, it is nice to see some real innovation in the Palm OS market (not just endless Sony models with new connector ports on the bottom and resolution/mp3 tweaks), especially in the area where formfactor and footprint are concerned. No one ever said that the Palm OS has to be tied to a rectangular handheld type of device. If this catches on anywhere it'd be in the commercial field, assuming a ruggedized, wireless enabled sort of field device were made available. When I recently saw a Toshiba winXP laptop with an active-matrix screen at Best Buy for something like $900 after rebate, it became clear that students are not going to buy _anything_ else. Not $600 Sony handhelds, not $500 Compaq handhelds, not even a $400 E-machine desktop (if they can afford the difference, thatis). So there's no way a bulky "unhip" Palm laptop would ever be accepted by students (or the college crowd, at least). It doesn't play DVDs and cannot handle Quake or Mp3s. This new Palm device does sort of remind me of the all-in-one Apple IIc units which I grew up with at school, though. It also reminds me of a glorifed version of that old Tandy portable computer that was popular for so many years...

RE: Wrong price!
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 10:28:29 AM #
While Dana costs more than a low end Palm, I think the advantages make up for it.

If you introduce handhelds in a classroom, the first two weeks have to be on learning Graffiti. If you spend a similar time learning to type, it will be useful on all computers.

While a small size is great for executives, it can be a disadvantage with kids, who lose things more easily and drop things a lot more.

The main advantage over a regular laptop is price. Not just the purchase price. Recent studies have shown that the Total Cost of Ownership of a handheld is less than $500 a year. It is about $12,000 for a laptop, once you factor in support and software.

Don't ignore convenience. It is much easier to support a Palm than a laptop. Backing up data is far easier, which is important as students are likely to be sharing these things.

RE: Wrong price!
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 10:33:52 AM #
For $400, a "student" could buy an m100, a PS2 or Xbox, and have $ left over for a bunch of games or accessories and be able to watch DVDs in the process. Also, Fammy, I don't think the kids will care how well this plays games, because they could have far better games on a $50 PSOne. it's not like kids care about what they use in class anyway.

I really don't see this interesting anyone but the eggiest of the eggheads out there. The asking price is much too high, but as the first poster said, it is a very brave move. Kudos to whomever green-lighted the project though!

RE: Wrong price!
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 10:43:57 AM #
> So there's no way a bulky "unhip" Palm laptop would ever be accepted by
> students (or the college crowd, at least).

This won't be marketed to students, so its hipness isn't important. It will be marketed to schools, who are perpertually short on money and are looking for low cost solutions.

Don't ignore support issues. If you think it is hard to find someone at your company who will do good tech support, imagine how much harder it is for a school, who can pay 30% less, if they have a budget for a tech support person at all. I'd much rather do support on 30 Palm OS devices than 30 laptops. Just keeping my one laptop going is sometimes a full-time job.

RE: Wrong price!
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 10:55:33 AM #
Hey, do any of you guys remember a year or year and a half ago, when some private school (in NC, I believe) went and outfitted all of their students and teachers with Palm IIIcs and folding keyboards? I'd be interested to read a report of both how well those units have held up to the rigors of a bunch of high schoolers (the IIIc was notoriously fragile, IMHO) and if anyone actually uses the units for a worthwhile purpose. I'd guess that the teachers got tird of squinting, gave up on graffitti without even giving it a chance, and the units still in use are just carried by kids to use as glorified gameboys during lunch break and in the back of the classroom.

Look, kids are going to break _anything_ and everything you put in front of them. While overall, the operating costs of a laptop probably do outweigh this device by far, being of an all-in-one design always leads to problems. If a kid bashes the keyboard in, you can't just stick a new $5 PS/2 keyboard on in its place. If a kid breaks the LCD screen with a violent index finger, you can't exactly go into the spare parts room and return with an old 14" CRT and use that in its place. In an ideal world, this device would be a boon to educators, but it'll just present a whole new world of problems to deal with. Kids will always be kids....

RE: Wrong price! not for YOU!
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 11:16:44 AM #
THIS IS PERFECT FOR CLUMSY KIDS! i am not against this product, you might think its for you but please dont speak for everyone else.
RE: Wrong price!
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 11:45:43 AM #
Sigh........I think we are splitting hairs here too much. Fretting over the amt. of ram in an m100 vs. m105 vs. Stowaway keyboards vs. PS/2 Keyboards. The poster from San Fran below said it best, that kids will be kids and that we are spending too much time, money and energy worrying on what OS computer in the classrooms are running. Instead, let's brush on on basic fundamental skills. Do you know how many 10th graders I still see doing basic arithmetic on their fingers? Or how many have no idea when World War II occured? Or how many cannot even write a short book report without plagarizing wildly from the Internet?

I think that ANY computer in the classroom, even if it's a 486 running windows 90, provided it has online capabilities and printer access, is sufficient for learning the basics. Most of these kids whose parents can afford PCs have far superior machine at home anyway. Those who don't have a PC at home will benefit from even an old XT machine in the corner. You can hit them over the head with new-fangled technology all day long, but if they have not learned any responsibility or appreciation for it, then what good does it do? You'll just end up with a never-ending list of broken keyboards, stolen mouse "balls" and broken CD-ROM trays. Fix the problem at the source before trying to pour more $ on it.

RE: Wrong price!
mentalsrule @ 6/17/2002 12:05:00 PM #
wow windows 90!! when does that come out? :p

i think this would be good for a few people. i dont know how good this would be in class and i carry my dell laptop with me to school... and i know by the end of the day my shoulders hurt some, so maybe this could be the good laptop replacment for schools like said before. i know if i didnt care that it was as ugly as handeras new handheld coming soon, i would probably get it if i didnt already have an NR70 and a new laptop.

Proud owner of the NR70v and a new sexy Dell inspiron 8100... GO DELL!!

RE: Wrong price!
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 3:09:18 PM #
As everyone else has mentioned, the price is too high!

But how much are you willing to pay for a device like this?

I'd be willing to pay $150 if it also had a built in modem. I wish, too, that it had a taller screen than 160. But if it was only $50, I'd buy it just to have a spare rugged palm around for entering large amounts of text. It would be more convenient than an attachable fold-up keyboard that has to be on a flat surface to use.

For $400, I expect at least color, wireless ethernet built-in, and a web browser that can take advantage of the larger screen with the features that Xiino has.

RE: Wrong price!
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 3:16:38 PM #
For $400, a student could buy an Xbox, a DVD remote, Halo and a bunch of porn DVD's! Definitely no contest.
RE: Wrong price! --- missing the point
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 3:54:22 PM #
You're missing the point; this is aimed at getting really basic but highly flexible computers in to classrooms and beyond -- back in to the homes of kids who don't have computers. This isn't something that kids have to buy themselves (choosing between it and a PS2), this is something that whole school districts k-12 could buy for everyone.

Kids don't need to play games or surf the net; they need to learn how to write papers, record research, do more complex math, and maybe even do a little programming. And of course, there are thousands of other things that they can do with the Palm OS.

For schools that are strapped for cash, this offers something that they can send home with kids, rather than a bunch of desktops in the classrooms, and it's a heck of a lot cheaper and more stable than laptops. Imagine the classroom with one or two networked PCs, with the ability to sync and print from two dozen of these things...

RE: Wrong price!
Palm_Otaku @ 6/17/2002 5:40:08 PM #
This looks like a very intriguing alternative for schools - I'm sure my kids would love to get their hands on these! (my 7-yo loves his IIIe)

I hope they've made them pretty "bullet-proof" (and made screen-replacement reasonably easy for the inevitable accidents!)

RE: Wrong price!
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 10:46:59 PM #
"The main advantage over a regular laptop is price. Not just the purchase price. Recent studies have shown that the Total Cost of Ownership of a handheld is less than $500 a year. It is about $12,000 for a laptop, once you factor in support and software."

Who pays 500 to maintain their pda? and who the hell pays 12,000 for software and support?

RE: Wrong price!
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 11:12:32 PM #
Are you not reading the other comments? Stop thinking about individuals owning these. That isn't what we are talking about. A few people will buy them but mostly it will be schools buying them by the hundred.

Once you factor in support and software costs, a handheld costs about $500 a year and the laptop much, much more.

When you are supporting your laptop, it doesn't cost you anything. But if you are a tech support person at a school, you have to be paid. Spending three hours reinstalling Windows 2K for the third time is irritating for you. It costs the school at least $50 to pay someone to do it. That's why simpler is better. The worst that can happen is you have to hard reset a Dana and it is ready to go again. That's 3 seconds verses 3 hours.

An expensive Palm app is $30. An expensive Microsoft app is $300. If that weren't bad enough, imagine buying 30 of them for a classroom.

If you don't think keeping students or employees supplied with computers is expensive, you haven't been paying attention.

RE: Wrong price!
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 11:56:02 PM #
LoL .. I am pretty sure Microsoft have school discounts / license, using the school license the cost of Microsoft office will cost less than 30 dollars per machine.

Anyways, schools won't be buying these machines, why ?? because it's a known fact that most people think palm is just an over priced organizer, people buy it because of the cool factor.

Anyway keep this a secret if microsoft could sell X-box for $350, an average Celeron PC will cost even les if they got a deal from Dell

RE: Wrong price!
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 10:13:03 AM #
OT: Even when the XBox was $299, Microsoft sold it at an undisclosed loss, estimated to be $100-$150, hoping to make up the difference in licensing fees.
RE: Wrong price!
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 10:45:10 AM #
OT: I built myself a 1Ghz P3 PC (a slim one) for $350 I am pretty sure Microsoft with all those OEM deals could do much better than I did.
RE: Wrong price!
Tytanium @ 11/16/2002 3:57:45 AM #
As a technician for a school system in NC I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents.

1. School systems can barely afford 300-600 a pc for the classrom
2. School systems cannot buy microsoft office for less than $60 (maybe if you buy site licenses by the hundreds). We pay @70 bucks per license thats at 25-50 licenses
3. As most in public education know most school systems don't have licenses to cover the computers they have.
4. I have seen all-in-one units of all os's come and go they have all been junked within months of use and are costly to fix.
5. The only thing that will catch on is something in the $50-100 price range that is so damn easy to use that even principals/teachers with their Phd's can use without calling a Tech everyday. And can easily print email, browse the net and have what is required by the state curriculum.

This might work in small classrooms with closely monitored students or as a easy way to take a computer home to type with. But what I would like to see catch on more than anything else is USB removable media(thumbdrives).

RE: Wrong price!
Tytanium @ 11/16/2002 3:57:45 AM #
Just for a note we have used the Alphasmart 3000 series with almost no problems (ie no broken screens damaged keyboards)

Can it...

Fammy @ 6/17/2002 10:04:52 AM #
The real question is can it play games.

How does it handle existing 160x160 apps?


RE: Can it...
Ed @ 6/17/2002 10:11:05 AM #
Looks like they run in a 160 by 160 window in the middle of the screen.

News Editor
Another Palm OS-Screenformat
Galapagos @ 6/17/2002 10:31:21 AM #
So this is another screenformat to irritate developers. Until now we have quite a few different formats:

PalmPilot-Series (160x160, 1-Bit-monochrome)

Palm III-Series, (160x160, 4 Grayscales)

Palm IIIx-Series, Vx-Series, m10x, Handspring Visor-Series (160x160, 4-Bit)

Handera 330 (320x200, 4-Bit)

Palm IIIc (160x160, 8-Bit)

Handspring Treo 270, 90 (160x160, 12-Bit)

Palm m5x5, m130, Visor Prism (160x160,16-Bit)

Handera 330c (320 x 240, 16-Bit)

Sony Clié PEG T-410 (320x320, 4-Bit)

AlphaSmart Dana (560 x 160, 4-Bit)

Sony Clié PEG N-710 (320x320, 8-Bit)

Sony Clié PEG N-770, N-760, T-610 (320x320, 16-Bit)

Sony Clié PEG NR-Series (320x480, 16-Bit)

So that's 13 different resolutions and colour-depths for operating system that does not even offer built-in support for different resolutions.

Some may say this proves the versatility of the OS. For me this is a nuisance. For a while I used a Clie N770, but a lot of the older software did not support the hires-screen, some even crashing the system. Of course you can set the preferences to exclude certain apps from hires-mode, but this does not work, when you run the apps form memory stick.

On another note: This Dana reminds me very much of the Psion Netbook and Series 7.

RE: Can it...
Kaitou @ 6/17/2002 11:11:30 AM #
Handera 330 (320x200, 4-Bit)

this should be 320x240, and for the NR clie (I have the 70V) you can just use SwitchDash that works to exclude programs on the mem stick from HiRes

RE: Can it...
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 11:58:53 AM #
Galapagos, thank you very much for taking the time to create that handy list of screen formats. I had been wondering if such a list existed to inform the hardware neophyteslike myself since before half of those screen formats hit the market!

Now all we need to do is add OS version, amt. of RAM, type/speed of CPU and a few more pertinent details and submit it to PIC to keep as a regularly updated table of every device from the Pilot 1000 to the Sony NRs and beyond. Ed, are you listening?

RE: Can it...
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/17/2002 12:00:15 PM #
Actually the HandEra 330 supports everything from 240x240 and 320x160 to 240x320 and 320x240 depending on the state of the graffiti area and portrait/landscape mode. Anyhow, despite what the other poster said, this is a very good thing as long as they all use PalmSource's APIs to do it (which currently isn't the case, not sure about this new Dana device). Limiting the OS because of poorly written, OLD software will lead to a quick demise for the Palm OS.
Different Palms
Galapagos @ 6/17/2002 1:17:54 PM #
For one of the previous posters:

You can get an excellent overview of the development of all Palm-powered devices at:

Palm_Otaku @ 6/17/2002 5:23:31 PM #
Hey Galapagos :-)

Thanks for the complement on palmevolution - I've updated the Milestones page with the announcement of this cool new evolutionary branch (the "Palm Tree" update won't happen 'til Wednesday at the earliest...).

BTW, for people referencing the site, please use the root URL: -- it's currently redirecting but will be hosted elsewhere soon.



RE: Can it...
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 12:50:38 AM #
I don't know why people keep claiming that PalmOS doesn't have any support for different resolutions. The whole "FORM" model enables most applications to run without ever having to know the resolution of the screen, and if they do the API lets them find out what size the screen is.
Samsung PalmOS Phone has 160x240
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 11:46:55 AM #
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