AlphaSmart Develops Talking Word Processor for Dana

Today at the 22nd Annual Closing the Gap Conference, AlphaSmart will preview a new writing solution for their Palm OS Dana unit and Dana Wireless that combines a talking word processor, Write:OutLoud To Go from Don Johnston Incorporated, with its new AlphaSmart VoiceCard, which converts text to speech.

A result of technical collaboration with Don Johnston Incorporated, the leader in learning intervention resources, the solution extends the Dana platform to deliver auditory support capabilities to early writers and those who struggle with the mechanics of writing.

“This new writing solution underscores the importance of collaboration. By working together with Don Johnston Incorporated, we were able to combine their significant expertise in learning interventions, with our ability to create technology solutions that reduce the cost and complexity of computing,” said Manish Kothari, president of AlphaSmart. “The result is a unique, affordable, easy-to-use solution that provides early writers and struggling students with an alternative way to master this essential skill.”

Write:OutLoud To Go provides learning supports that inspire students to evaluate the content of their writing and implement strategies to improve mechanics. Leveraging technology already designed into Dana, students simply plug the AlphaSmart VoiceCard into one of the computer companion’s two SD slots and listen to their written words through headphones or speakers.

Auditory support has been proven to have a powerful impact on students who struggle with writing, but until now was only available for use at the desktop. When combined with Dana, students enjoy a versatile, mobile writing solution that can be used anywhere, anytime, and educators benefit from a proven solution that fits their budget.

“This collaboration is critical,” said Don Johnston, chief executive officer of Don Johnston Incorporated. “It’s essential that we continue to find new ways to provide the considerate supports diverse learners need to be active participants in the content areas. Write:OutLoud To Go and Dana—by delivering auditory feedback—accomplish this for so many students.”

Write:OutLoud To Go will begin shipping in November, and will be available for purchase with Dana from either AlphaSmart or Don Johnston Inc. There will be education and discount pricing options available.

About the Dana
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. 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. There is also a Dana Wireless version with built in WiFi.

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 has an infrared port and two USB ones and can be HotSynced like any other Palm OS model. It comes with a rechargeable battery and an AC adapter. It can also run off three AA batteries. AlphaSmart rates the battery at 30 hours, off of a single charge.

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There is no Dana, only Zool.

Strider_mt2k @ 10/21/2004 3:17:22 PM #
Yes, I will continue to make that joke, thank you.

With the amount of companies pulling out of the PDA market, it's great to see AlphaSmart developing more stuff for the Dana.
It shows they are really committed to it, as they should be because it's a great concept and product for educators.

well, I guess it makes sense...

vrf @ 10/21/2004 9:12:18 PM #
I guess it makes sense to push on with more educational products, but professional users like myself would be more interested in other developments. Like how about having the AlphaWord word processor read and write some kind of standard file format? It's really unfortunate that this is being marketed as a laptop alternative, yet out of the box it still requires a regular system because of the hotsync-only conversion process.

Yeah, I know about Docs2Go, but the Dana version has issues. Nothing like their simple and powerful AlphaWord.

RE: well, I guess it makes sense...
thomaslb @ 10/25/2004 10:25:50 AM #
Remember that AlphaWord is just a dummied-down (rrr..simplified) version of WordSmith. I use it as a laptop with WSmith as a key part of the solution. So looking at it that way you could use TealDoc to read/write txt files if you wanted/needed native for some reason. But the Rich Text formating of Wsmith (both it and TealDoc take advantage of Dana's extra-wide screen) (prints the rich text too) makes WORD a non-need. (Comments in Wsmith and the whole nine yards). Conversion to WORD makes sense, of course when you have to send a doc to WORD-only users, but I avoid those people! Anyway--it's the same boat in that regard all palm users are in. Qword also works fine on Dana (again, uses the wide-screen), but I don't care for that program as much--too slow).

Don't get it

jmstroup @ 10/24/2004 9:42:58 AM #
I don't understand the purpose of this product at all. If I was going to have a device this big, I'd just get a full laptop rather than hobble myself with this. The reason Palm makes sense is because it fits in my palm. It is portable.

AlphaSmart Dana Sales?
Gekko @ 10/24/2004 10:07:37 AM #

I wonder how this pig is really selling - and I don't want to hear anecdotal evidence - let's see real total sales volume numbers. I agree with you, this is just a pointless, silly, underfeatured, overpriced product.

RE: Don't get it
The_Voice_of_Reason @ 10/24/2004 3:55:11 PM #
I don't understand the purpose of this product at all. If I was going to have a device this big, I'd just get a full laptop rather than hobble myself with this. The reason Palm makes sense is because it fits in my palm. It is portable.

The device is meant to be a rugged mini computer for schools and it makes sense in that environment. These devices can withstand the abuse kids will give them. Laptops can't.

Sony CLIE UX100: 128 MB real RAM, OLED screen. All the PDA anyone really ever wanted.

RE: Don't get it
thomaslb @ 10/25/2004 10:32:23 AM #
And it makes sense for those of us who are mobile professionals that need a fantastic battery life and real reliability. Don't start on the IBM (or MAC) laptop thing--THEY are expensive, they break easily (I have owned several), and you can't (or shouldn't) just leave them in the car when you don't want to carry it somewhere. I recently used mine with great success doing case management during all of Florida's hurricanes (word processing, emailing, printing docs, incident reports, looking up numbers from the web, etc., etc.). It was a good thing not having to look for a power supply since in many places there wasn't one. And it's more rugged than most palms (I've had/have a lot of those too). Don't get me wrong--I love handhelds and use one of those too (on the occasions it makes more sense--Dana makes more sense when you think and use it more like a laptop than a PDA).

Not that this is for everyone. It all depends on your needs. Between doing long hours of work on a small screen in word processor or spread sheet docs, I personally like the Dana's huge screen (no wash-out in the sun if you work outside). I don't have anything to do education but my Dana makes me a ton of money doing work really effectively.

I'd love for it to have a similar screen/backlight scheme to the HE330. A handheld attempting to run a 400+mhz processor off the 3.5 volts that's currently crammed into most hand helds makes no sense to me.



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