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Motion Computing debuts lower-cost tablet

The company looks to attract more customers with a less expensive, lower-power model, while it also cuts the price of an existing device.

Motion Computing on Tuesday refreshed its tablet PC line with a less expensive, lower-power model.

The start-up company, which sells tablet PCs based on Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet PC Edition operating system, launched a Motion M1300 model priced at $1,699--$300 less than its original M1300.

The tablet keeps Motion Computing's traditional 12-inch screen and writing slatelike form but includes a less expensive, 800MHz low-power mobile Celeron processor from Intel.

Also on Tuesday, Motion Computing cut $100 off the price of its existing M1300 model, which comes with a 1GHz Pentium M processor from Intel. The company will also give new buyers of the device the option of buying a screen it says is more visible outdoors.

Tablets generally appeal to people or companies that need to enter data into a computer using a pen as opposed to a keyboard. Motion Computing said it's aiming to use the new, lower-priced model and the new screen to better attract customers in its four main target markets: healthcare, government, education and companies with mobile sales forces. The Celeron model gives more choice in price and performance, said Elizabeth Clark, Motion Computing's director of product marketing.

"We've recognized that our customers have different performance needs," she said.

To date, shipments of tablets based on the Microsoft Tablet PC OS have grown. IDC predicts unit shipments to hit about 500,000 this year; and several companies, including Motion Computing, Acer, Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba, have come out with second-generation models. But the tablet market is still relatively small when measured against the worldwide notebook PC market, which totaled more than 30 million units last year, according to IDC.

Motion Computing's new screen option, Motion View Anywhere, costs $349. It works by using a special laminate, designed to cut down on reflection, thus increasing the readability of the screen when viewed in sunlight, said Tom Bentley, vice president of human factors at Motion Computing.

Many screens designed for outdoor viewing do not perform as well indoors, but Motion Computing said its screen is different. "The lamination actually improves the viewability of our standard product and adds outdoor viewability," Bentley said.

Motion Computing believes the new screen will be of particular interest to clients in industries such as insurance and real estate, where people spend a lot of time away from the office. The company's Pentium M M1300 tablet now starts at $1,999 and comes with the 12.1-inch screen and 1GHz Pentium M processor. Both M1300 models come with 256MB of RAM, a 20GB hard drive and wireless networking, the company said.

The Celeron-based M1300 model will replace Motion Computing's M1200 tablet, which came with Intel's 933MHz Pentium III-M chip.

In other news, Motion Computing announced a PC card fingerprint reader on Tuesday. The $149 device lets people use their fingerprint as a password to help protect-sensitive data, the company said.