Dana Wireless Now Available

AlphaSmart has announced that the Dana wireless is now available. The new model of the wide screen Palm OS laptop alternative Dana offers built-in Wi-Fi (802.11b), updated software and an enhanced display.

Dana WirelessDana Wireless is a two-pound, highly durable laptop alternative powered by Palm OS with a large screen and integrated full-size keyboard, which consumers can use to access e-mail and the Internet wirelessly. In addition, the combination of Palm OS and its rugged mobility makes Dana relevant not only to K-12 and higher education students and teachers, but also to a diverse set of mobile professionals whose field responsibilities take them out of the office.

In addition to internal Wi-Fi, Dana Wireless also includes some other new features, the 560 by 160 pixel screen can now support 16 shades of grayscale, and the unit will get a memory boost to 16mb of RAM. The backlit, monochrome screen is 3.5 times wider than what's on the typical Palm OS handheld. The screen image can be rotated both horizontally and vertically.

The Dana has two MMC/SD slots for memory and peripherals, a USB port for modems and printers and an IR port. 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. AlphaSmart has added additional SDIO support and several drivers for USB modems have been built in. Also included is a new version of PrintBoy and an updated spell checker.

Dana Wireless also will include AlphaSmart's Internet Solutions Pack, which includes the widescreen DanaWeb browser, Mark/Space Mail e-mail client, and a three-month trial subscription to VeriChat, a widescreen instant messaging (IM) client.

The Dana Wireless is avilable for order from AlphaSmart for $429. The non-wireless version also sells for $379.

"PalmSource supports the innovative solutions being created by AlphaSmart, whose cost-effective mobile solutions are extending the use of exciting technology to educators and students," said David Nagel, president and CEO of PalmSource, Inc. "The emergence of the new Dana demonstrates the momentum of the Palm OS and Wi-Fi environment."

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There is no place for these in the market

iain.collins @ 9/15/2003 10:27:30 AM #
Devices like this have never been successful, the people who dream these up really don't have any understanding of what people want and the far too easily buy into their own hyperbole. I'm sure this is a mistake which will cost someone a sizeable chunk of money.

Sinclair tried to make a device very similar to this over 10 years ago (the Z88), as did Apple (with the eMate), as have countless others. They have never been embraced by the market place.

Retail stores get stuck with these device, production get's stopped shortly afterwards and the few naive consumers who do get lumped with them are very unhappy with them and simply never end up using them.

I can pick up a PII/PIII laptop second hand (with a 1 year warranty, CD-ROM, Floppy Disk, 10 GB Hard Disk, 256 MB RAM, Windows 98/2000) for less than the cost of this device. If you really need something ultra portable you can also pick up a second hand Palm for 30 UKP in the same store (round the corner from me), and that is a far more attractive combination.

RE: There is no place for these in the market
robman @ 9/15/2003 10:47:17 AM #
>Devices like this have never been successful, the
>people who dream these up really don't have any >understanding of what people want and the far too >easily buy into their own hyperbole. I'm sure this
>is a mistake which will cost someone a sizeable
>chunk of money.

The Dana and Dana Wireless are natural outgrowths of AlphaSmart's existing line of products, which has kept them in business since 1992. I predict AlphaSmart will continue to stay afloat, as long as they stay true to their core business and continue to produce products that make sense directly in schools.

>Sinclair tried to make a device very similar to this >over 10 years ago (the Z88), as did Apple (with the >eMate), as have countless others. They have never >been embraced by the market place.

That's true. But you also can't go into a Circuit City to buy a Dana (or if you can, it's unusual.) Most AlphaSmarts are sold directly to schools and districts, and are issued to students like textbooks, instead of bought individually by parents like organizers.

>I can pick up a PII/PIII laptop second hand (with a
>1 year warranty, CD-ROM, Floppy Disk, 10 GB Hard >Disk, 256 MB RAM, Windows 98/2000) for less than the >cost of this device.

There's no question; if you're looking for bang for your buck, the Dana is a poor investment. But it's not designed for this purpose---it's designed to be mistreated by 5th graders and still operate for a decade. I've seen older Alphasmart devices that have been in use for upwards of 7 years, with no servicing. Your laptop is likely to require considerable technical expertise after such a time, even if it sits in a closet unused for the whole period.

>If you really need something ultra portable you can
>also pick up a second hand Palm for 30 UKP in the

Absolutely, and this is what makes AlphaSmart's embrace of the Palm OS so wonderfully inviting. With wireless, the possibilities for colloboration, internet access, messaging, and better classroom interaction expand profoundly. The Dana Wireless has more potential to transform our society than any other Palm OS device to date.

But don't buy a Dana, you'll hate it--it's big and clunky and overpriced for the horsepower. Don't buy your kid a Dana either, or else she'll be the only one on the block with the device, making it anoversized Palm. No, call your local school board and ask them if they have considered issuing the Dana to students.

The Dana Wireless belongs in schools. Kudos to AlphaSmart on their continued innovation.

Palm Enthusiast since 1998

RE: There is no place for these in the market
Gar @ 9/15/2003 10:54:11 AM #
I think as an education unit, the eMate went well. The error that many people go into a handheld made big like the Dana is that they can easily do emails, text docs, and simple web browsing. What they miss till they get it home is the different thinking one must have to use and manage files on these 'handheld OS' devices. They aren't able to go to a folder and find their files and attachments. (Well, they could if they knew how to use specialty programs available for the Palm OS - but these aren't being bought by people like the viewers of this board.) Things are held as lists within programs that get to be too much for folks to get their head around when their lists get long.

My wife has to sell a lot of candles (www.ccandles.com) to buy her new Palm.
RE: There is no place for these in the market
hgoldner @ 9/15/2003 10:54:34 AM #
These are principally vertical market-type devices. There are plenty of places for these, but not consumer based, and not the sort of thing you'll typically run across.

For instance, I always thought the Symbol-adapted Palm IIIx's with bar code readers were a stupid idea, until I saw every ticket agent at Lincoln Financial Field (in Phila.) using them to scan bar coded tickets for an event.

Similarly, several industrial settings can be envisioned where something simple and rugged like the Dana unit would fit in nicely.

More importantly; they are another example of why the Palm OS is such a good choice for mobile devices.

RE: There is no place for these in the market
helf @ 9/15/2003 11:05:41 AM #
I think it's funny how people are always dooming a device because it's something they would not use.

Well, lemme break it to ya. The people that read boards like this and what not are NOT the majority of pda users.. sadly .. And I'd rather have a dana with a huge batt, wifi and dual expansion and full sized keyboard than a laptop.

RE: There is no place for these in the market
Uncle Steve @ 9/15/2003 12:48:50 PM #
Once again, I feel the need to point out:

A palm trying to be a laptop is superior to a laptop trying to be a handheld (including tablet PC's)simply because of the absence of moving parts. And I'm not just talking about the maintenance of various drives, but, for me, it's the *boot up time* of a chip vs. Windows.

Imagine a Sony UX-type handheld with the lower half folding out to a full-size keyboard a la the Stowaway! I would get one in a heartbeat.I would't care if it would not slip into my shirt pocket any more. I carry mine in a mini belt pack anyway. A pocket is no place for a pocket computer anyway unless you want to smash it or drop it.(My $0.02)

RE: There is no place for these in the market
iain.collins @ 9/15/2003 1:44:42 PM #
Actually, customised industry devices like the Barcode Palm's made a lot of sense to me, they were big and clunky but you can see how much better they for people who need to do inventory/delivery/logistics tracking than just pen and paper.

As I've stated already, I don't think this a poor device 'because it's something I wouldn't buy', I think it's a poor device because it's been done before with zero great success and I think it's of no merit in any market place. As far as education specfically goes, it's not even as good as an eMate, which is several years older and was far better placed to be a success, given the relationship Apple already had with the education market. Like the Dreamwriter, it is a nasty peice of outdated, overpriced technology.

I think it's a display of shocking incompetence and a poor evaluation and review process for any school to purchase devices like this instead of investing in other devices that have much clearer educational benefit and I would write a very objectionable letter to any local education authority of mine who entered in to such a deal pointing out just how they had squandered the tax payers money on inappropriate equipment.

In comparison:

You can buy a new Sun Ray Client for 150 USD, and having a full featured smart card based roaming terminal for every student (with a full modern software suite based on GNOME2, Netscape/Mozilla/Internet Explorer and Open Office) is be a far better learning tool. This, IMO, is where school IT budgets should be going, not on crude devices with feature set of a ~10+ year old device. 150 USD Sun Ray for each student, with a 50 USD Palm Pilot would be a better investment for any school than spending a whopping $420 (!) USD on a glorified Z88.

It would also be a lot cheaper and easier to replace the Palm Pilots when they are lost/broken and of course you wouldn't need to upgrade the Sun Ray Terminals, just add more CPU power to the central server cluster if you wanted to boost performance.

If you really think these are a winning idea, then ask yourself why mainstream eletronics firms (like Sharp, Casio, Texas Instruments, Sony, Palm, even Apple and certainly Microsoft) are not seriously pushing this sort of device. They are much better placed to do so and would muscle in immediately if they thought there was a real market in it.

RE: There is no place for these in the market
JonAcheson @ 9/15/2003 2:19:44 PM #
> Devices like this have never been successful, the
> people who dream these up really don't have any
> understanding of what people want and the far too
> easily buy into their own hyperbole. I'm sure this is
> a mistake which will cost someone a sizeable chunk of money.

Since this is the second or third version of the Dana that has come out, doesn't that mean it has already been successful? Alphasmart is still in business, after all.

I personally think this would make a kickass replacement for a ruggedized laptop: it's tougher, lasts longer on batteries, and is still cheap enough to replace if it gets destroyed. If I were a soldier serving in the Gulf, this is what I'd want.

Jon Acheson

"All opinions posted are my own, and not those of my employers, who are appalled."

RE: There is no place for these in the market
plinius @ 9/15/2003 4:59:08 PM #
My local schools have iBooks. I've never heard of any school using a Dana. Even the elementary school has iBooks that the kids can check out of the library for the day.

I tried the Dana briefly, because they were also marketing it as a tool for writers. I returned it almost immediately.

I can tell you it is completely inappropriate for writers. The word processors they includes are abysmal. For instance there was no way to have more than one writing project: just several databases with no categories allowed. When I did a file-open, the list of files wasn't even sorted. What the hell!

In addition the CPU was really slow. I heard it was a 66 MHz but I find that hard to believe. I've seen Apple IIe's that were faster.

The B&W screen was very low-quality and the glass was very reflective. The backlight was weak.

The Alphasmart company is not committed to expanding its product line to meet the needs of niches other than preschoolers it seems to me.

Technology analysts have said it a hundred times--companies that don't expand relentlessly tend to die.

RE: There is no place for these in the market
arielb @ 9/15/2003 7:22:32 PM #
the sun ray isn't portable and you can't type on a palm. You have to deal with windows on a laptop (and linux is even worse). Just turn this thing on and off and on again-it works.
Here's the real problem: it's only useful for writing papers. But shouldn't kids, since they already have a "computer", have the chance to learn real PC apps? If schools have the money to buy these things for all the kids then they should spend it on something more versatile like a regular laptop

RE: There is no place for these in the market
ganoe @ 9/15/2003 9:38:18 PM #
> Devices like this have never been successful, the people who dream
> these up really don't have any understanding of what people want

This is hilarious. AlphaSmart has been selling thousands of devices like this for years. I suspect they have a much, much clearer view of the market than you do.

RE: There is no place for these in the market
iain.collins @ 9/16/2003 4:58:45 AM #
Actually companies with poor products take years to die (I don't think AlphaSmart are really an example of a success story). I used to work for a company that still supports Risc OS PC's in the year 2004, I don't think that's a good thing either. If you think these devices have a real future, again just look at the large number of better devices that have been discontinued: The eMate (which was even avalible with a wind up charger!) and the much more powerful Psion Series 7 - with a keyboard similar to the Dana's, but with a full sized colour screen and a very capable OS, sadly even the likes of the combatively admirable Pison 7 weren't able to make enough sales to keep them in production.

I also think the point about appropriate spending is crucial here. At 420 USD these things are very expensive for the level of functionality and educational value they deliver. My point regarding the Sun Ray's and separate Palm device is that you could have a fully functional computer on every desk (and still have a PDA in every pocket) and it would still be cheaper than giving all the students one of these comparatively hobbled devices. I don't see it's possible to argue that a Dana for every student is of more value than a fully functional desktop (with smart card based roaming profiles) and a portable Palm device on every desk.

Companies like this survive by selling to the education market because education authorities don't have people who are able to give them better advice on how to make the most of their IT budgets.

I hope get what you seem to want and your child's school decides not to buy say iBooks, but these instead. For cost of 1000 iBooks you can get 2000 of these things, but I can be sure that your get a lot more educational value out of those iBooks than you will out of even 5000 of these things.

You should really try using a device like this - I have, and as one user has testified already, the screen size, the poor performance and the lack of functionality in word processing software make them simply useless. I'd rather share access to an iBook than have one of these, I could be just as productive (if not more) even if I had access to something like an iBook for even half the time.

RE: There is no place for these in the market
helf @ 9/16/2003 10:26:22 AM #
Whats wrong with the RISC OS? :)

NOTHING! yay!!

Just because something is old doesn't mean it's bad :D

RE: There is no place for these in the market
iain.collins @ 9/17/2003 3:24:27 AM #
Hehe, compared to Windows no.... ;-)

RE: There is no place for these in the market
hotpaw4 @ 9/19/2003 9:06:27 AM #
>I can pick up a PII/PIII laptop second hand ...

You've got to be kidding. The used PIII laptop would cause a 11-year-olds backpack weight to exceed safety recommendations, and would quickly turn into a pile of useless parts after being tossed onto the playground/classroom floor a few times.

The Dana is half the price and weight of a iBook and is designed to be dropped many more times without damage, thus saving a school district bundles in repair/replacement costs, as well as upfront and sysadmin costs.

It's the laptop that currently has no place in the market for which the Dana was designed.

RE: There is no place for these in the market
rob_skomorucha @ 11/2/2003 3:04:39 PM #
I would buy a better version of this idea. A PalmOS, with grayscale or color screen, instant on, touch type keyboard. I would use it in class for my Masters degree and for doing business while in meetings or on the train. Small is not important; thin is important. Something the size of a large print paperback with a slim profile.

Screen on one flap, keyboard on the other. Small stands under the keyboard, just like on regular PC keyboards, to flip it up and make typing just a little more comfortable. Wireless with Bluetooth or with slots for wireless cards. Slots for media storage.

The size of the screen would also make it a good layout for reading downloaded text, documents, news, emails. I'm tellin you, I don't want to spend any amount of money on a small laptop; I want an instant on, dedicated document machine with PalmOS features.

RE: There is no place for these in the market
sportzriter13 @ 11/15/2008 2:09:27 PM #
*shakes head* not true, not true at all
for one,...there is a classroom in maryland (?) that was using danas for ALL students (a few years ago, but I'll look it up). Secondly-I have one and can tell you WHY and WHERE there will always be a place for it.
Yes, the old ones were a pain-no battery indicator, text only, couldn't have more than 8 files (had to piggyback-god that sucked!), no rich text;one font, do it yourself paragraph spacing....then in grade 7 I got a Dana...what a godsend!
I am a person with Asperger's Syndrome and crappy handwriting...I think/take notes much faster then I can write with pen/paper. On the other hand I type like a speed demon.
Let me say this...it doesn't owe me a cent.
I don't need someone to write down homework for me, I don't need someone to take down notes for me; I do it all myself and could print them a copy...if I can't remember their e-mail address- I go to my address book and get it from there.
My grades accurately reflect my thoughts/knowledge-my words are crystal clear. It saves time and frustration because my teachers aren't left trying to decode my handwriting and I don't have to sit there and try to interpret my test answers. If I come up with a new poem/story/rant/idea, I don't have to search for pen/paper; I just turn my dana on and *BOOM* I'm in business. I can get things done, pop in AA's if power becomes an issue, it looks cool (can't tell you how many people comment on it/want to touch it/know how much its worth)...it has everything I need, and is as rough and ready as I am. In the five/six years I've had it, this thing has been an essential tool that I don't know what I'd do without. I speak for the Rhode Island Autism Project's seminar series ASpire, which is for parents/teachers/professionals who work with people with Asperger's Syndrome, and when I go to speak it is one of the first things I bring up. I'll take it out of its case, show it off, tell them about how it helps and let the ooohs and ahhhs take over.
I know it may not do EVERYTHING for EVERYONE...number of MS word pages would be nice, and color would be a nice touch, but that's just a second thought...because when it counts, this thing works!
oh and it got me through a season of manager's notes for the field hockey team...a couple of raindrops at the JV final didn't stop us!
I'm switching over to a dana wireless (which is sort of emotional, actually, go figure- a girl and her gadgets...) and I expect nothing less to get me through college and whatever else the world throws at me. :)

Now the only thing missing is color...

a3 @ 9/15/2003 1:06:00 PM #
As soon as they get color in this device they will be taking it to a whole new level (games, web surfing and nice tables and docs.)

Former Tapwave's Helix fan, now a T|T3 fan.
RE: Now the only thing missing is color...
iain.collins @ 9/15/2003 1:48:53 PM #
I think if they made the display triple the height (even if it was Grayscale) and made it clam shell (so that it was truly portbable) then they would have a good, solid device that I would be happy to see schools invest in.

Color would be neat, but it would add a lot to the cost and battery life, and I'm sure kids would just break them and forget to keep them powered up, so if it's cheap and has as low power comsumption possible that's probably for the best for now ;)

Having used a similar device before I think the tiny display, coupled with all the draw backs of a full sized keyboard is just madness.

They should really triple the display size, then it would be actually vaguely handy, but the trouble then is, why not just by a Psion Series 7...

The Psion Series 7 was just so much better (and cheaper) than this device it's not funny (and if it wasn't a success, I don't know why they think these devices will be).

This is ridiculous!

X Destruction @ 9/16/2003 10:03:43 PM #
Come on! Do larger screens and a full sized keyboard with no colour, hi-res, or white backlight cost that much to make? I bought a TG50 + BT Dongle for less than the Dana Wireless. Heck, you can get an NX70v w/ wifi card or Tungsten C for less than the dana wireless! What is making the Dana Wireless cost so much money? Also, the screen resolution of very wide low res is not really supported by many apps at all! This thing looks like it's built for a freaken 10 year old, or younger. It's big, clunky, with no features (except wifi) or software support. It's just plain ugly, no teenager would be caught dead with it. Unless they were forced to use it, they wouldn't get it. It doesn't exactly shout out style. Besides, the point being, a palm pda is supposed to be small, light, and portable, this thing looks like a leap back in technology, even with wifi.
RE: This is ridiculous!
hotpaw4 @ 9/19/2003 9:20:17 AM #
> This thing looks like it's built for a freaken 10 year old

You'd be surprised how many billions of dollars of stuff is sold for the use of 10-year-olds. The toy and elementary education industries are much larger than than all PDA companies combined.

AlphaSmart KNOWS what it's doing

Jonathan_2k1 @ 9/17/2003 7:21:57 PM #
I have faith in AlphaSmart. I have an IBM ThinkPad G40 laptop at home. I am in Grade 8. My friend Richard (name changed to protect privacy) has an AlphaSmart 3000 issued by the school.
Since I can type much faster than he can, and we are friends, I type down notes for him, and he prints an extra copy for me.
The writing experience is very different. Let me explain.

Home: ThinkPad: Open lid. Press power button. Plug in AC adapter. Sit in bed. Twiddle thumbs for system to wake up from hibernation. Open Microsoft Word. Enter a title. Save file. Type. Save. Type. Save. Connect USB printer. Print. Chose wrong printer. Choose correct printer. Print. Done.

School: AS 3000: Get it from Richard. Type. Turn off.
Richard: Take to computer. Log in. Start Wordperfect. Connect AS3K. Press Send. Print. Give me a copy. Done

The AlphaSmart 3000, as you see, was much easier. THese devices have survived A LOT of abuse.

I have faith in AlphaSmart and may they forever profit from their knowledge. The Dana Wireless is good for high school/university because you can type with none of the hassles of a computer than print without a computer using 802.11b

I am a complex enigma. Any attempt to understand me is a violation of the Digital Copyright Stupidity Act (DMCA). Not that I care because I live in CANADA!

this thing is EXPENSIVE for what you get!

inventor161 @ 6/22/2004 11:30:25 AM #
for $429 I could by a Tungsten C with WiFi, a hi res color screen, and a keyboard! or I could buy a used laptop on ebay and a WiFi card! For what you pay you dont even get a color screen! Save your money and buy either a cheap laptop or a nice color Tungsten C!


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