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Versatility puts the world in your hands

Following on from last week’s story on hand-held technology, Alison Birrane talks to some of the main movers in the sector in WA.

 

FROM the mountains of Alaska to villages in Bolivia and the skyscrapers of Manhattan, a small Perth company has managed to achieve broad-based penetration in the difficult market of software for hand-held devices.

West Perth’s Creativity Corp Pty Ltd has created a hand-held technology that can be used in a wide range of industries and has a variety of applications.

The point of difference with Creativity Corp’s product is that it is not a system developed for a particular industry. Rather, it is a system that allows individuals to custom design their own software through a user-friendly interface, without requiring any programming skills.

The uptake of hand-held technology has, to date, been slower than expected – a trend mainly attributed to the limitations of devices and the software functionality not matching specific user requirements.

Defying this trend, however, are industries such as hospitality, real estate and the car rental industry, where developers of mobile technology have discovered market niches and developed custom software to meet a particular need.

The key here is information collection and reporting. The data collected is within a small predictable range that is time-critical. It is sent to a centralised processing point and can be either actioned immediately or at a later time.

While this concept still applies to the Creativity Corp product, Pocket PC Creations, company founder and joint director Neil Bartholomaeus says the software has been readily received by customers because they are able to design their own system to their own specific needs.

This is done on a desktop computer using a drag-and-drop interface before the final project is installed on a Windows Pocket PC.

The project file sizes are small, around 30KB or less, which means the user can load a number of projects onto a Pocket PC. For example, a project with the descriptions and costs of 1,000 products in a sales catalogue would have negligible impact on the memory of the Pocket PC.

The product is also GPS and wireless enabled, and data can be uploaded to the Internet.

John Hoppe, a geologist with the US Bureau of Land Management in Alaska, uses the Pocket PC Creations and its GPS navigation functions when out in the field.

“When a geologist for a private company requested our data the week we got back from the field, instead of it residing in a stack of notebooks, we were able to post all of the data on the web the next day,” Mr Hoppe said.

“It also removes the data-entry phase, where additional errors can occur.”

Mr Bartholomaeus said he came upon the idea for the Pocket PC Creations when working within the State government in a job that required frequent trips to businesses across the metropolitan area.

“When I was at Worksafe in WA we did a huge amount through the Internet,” he said.

“I recognised a commercial opportunity.”

The product was launched in March 2001 and Mr Bartholomaeus said it gained immediate acceptance in a number of industries.

Product marketing is done online using a global business model supported by online training.

“The online training is pretty vital for global reach,” Mr Bartholomaeus said.

The company’s main market is the US, which accounts for almost 80 per cent of Pocket PC Creations’ user base.

“We have grown from zero exports to [a situation] in two and half years to where 90 per cent of our income is from exports to nearly 50 countries,” Mr Bartholomaeus told WA Business News.

“We have software on thousands of PCs and many orders are for multiple licences.

“Mobile computing is a very immature market, so from our point of view we have excellent growth prospects. Our main competitor is the old way of doing things – with a pen a paper,” he said.

Mr Bartholomaeus said the company would stick to developing one hand-held device, Windows Pocket PC.

“We don’t sell hardware ourselves, but we have partners that bundle hardware,” he said. “Because it is such an immature market, we intend to continue to develop for the mobile and Pocket PC market.

“We believe they are prevailing relative to the Palm operating system.”

 

“We have software on thousands of PCs and many orders are for multiple licences.”

-         Neil Bartholomaeus

 

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