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GM drives Hummer-branded laptop

Itronix helps carmaker create a semi-military-grade computer complete with a Hummer logo. Photo: Laptop for the Hummer crowd

Culture
General Motors is expected to announce a new laptop next week that's styled after its popular Hummer multi-terrain vehicles.

The carmaker has signed an exclusive three-year licensing agreement with Spokane, Wash.-based Itronix to make a portable computer designed for people who work outdoors: police officers, firefighters, claims adjusters and construction workers, for example, as well as people who own a Hummer and are fascinated by anything related to the oversize vehicles.

Hummer laptop

Itronix, which makes laptops and tablet PCs for the U.S. military, said it wanted to style a new category of "semi-ruggedized" laptop. Priced at $2,988, the laptops come with enough padding to survive six separate drops from a height of 30 inches onto two 3/4-inch sheets of plywood placed on top of concrete.

Industrial-strength laptops, which are water-resistant and can withstand extreme temperatures, are finding their way onto battlefields and oil fields. Models like the Panasonic Toughbook, and Twinhead, with its Durabook line, also come with external body armor and internal shock absorbers.

Itronix Senior Vice President Matt Gerber said the company's new laptops were originally designed to meet the needs of military commanders in Iraq who told Itronix they were caught between using thick and heavy laptops used by the infantry and inexpensive business-class PCs from Dell.

"Halfway through the development phase, we got this call from General Motors asking us if we would make a laptop that reflected the spirit of their Hummer vehicles, which also has its roots in the U.S. military," Gerber said.

Itronix said it is using the same military-grade technology (vibration and temperature standards) in the Hummer laptop to launch its own brand--the GoBook VR-1. That computer, priced at $3,299, has nearly all the same attributes as the Hummer-branded laptop, including a 1.86GHz Intel Pentium-M processor, a 12.1-inch color display, 512MB of memory, a DVD/CD-R/W combination drive, 8021.11a/g/b wireless connectivity and Microsoft's XP Professional operating system.

Both computers have a flip-out LED light to illuminates the screen and help users work in low-light conditions. The laptops also come with four wireless radios, including an integrated GPS antenna that helps Microsoft Streets and Trips map software locate your position and help you to your destination, Gerber said.

The Hummer laptop has the added features of an 80GB shock-mounted removable hard-disk drive (a security benefit for multiple computer users) and a swappable radio module that allows users to switch between North American and European GPRS/EDGE wireless plans.

Gerber said the company is currently discussing adding biometric readers for extra laptop security.

The Hummer laptop comes in black and silver with yellow, red or pewter-gray trim. Its battery lasts a little more than four hours; a battery extender pushes that to about seven hours. The Hummer laptop will be available at car dealerships that sell Hummer products or online at the GM-approved Web site Hummerstuff.com starting Nov. 1.

General Motors lost an average of $1,227 per vehicle sold in North America during the first half of 2005, the most of any U.S. automaker, according to an industry analyst report out Tuesday.

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