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An interview with Scott Eckert, CEO of Motion Computing



In what will be the first among many interviews with key players in the Tablet PC and Mobile PC industry, we are delighted to inaugurate this category with our interview with Scott Eckert, CEO of Motion Computing. Motion Computing’s current product line includes the LE1600 Tablet PC and LS800 ultra mobile tablet pc.

GBM: Scott, Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.

Its’ been over 3 years since the Tablet PC has launched. Motion is considered by many to be a shining star in the tablet pc space. What do you consider your biggest challenges moving into years 4, 5, and 6?

Eckert: Greater tablet awareness and wider development of tablet applications will be the two biggest contributors of tablet industry growth in the next three years.  Tablets are still somewhat of a novelty among most computer users. For example, Motion’s LS800 is my primary computer, and when I’m traveling I’m approached all the time in Starbucks and in airports by people curious about this incredible device I’m carrying. That awareness will grow over time and we know that when our customers experience the tablet, they love it and that keeps us energized at Motion. In addition, the availability of more applications that incorporate digital ink and are designed for pen navigation will also create more compelling reasons for people to use tablet PCs.

GBM: When I was at the Microsoft Mobile Partner Brief last week, I saw a lot of LE1600s and quite a few LS800’s. When most people think of Motion, they think of healthcare, your most successful vertical market. Will Motion always be considered a healthcare vertically oriented company, or do you have plans to introduce devices that will go horizontal, like a portable convertible / hybrid tablet?

Eckert: Motion has a strong brand in healthcare — it’s about half of our business — but we’ve also been very successful in field sales and service automation and state and local government, which are also very important markets for us.  We’re focused on understanding the special needs of these markets, and serving them really well with hardware, software, wireless, and services.  We already see adoption of our tablets outside of our core vertical markets, and expect that to grow, but we have no plans to focus on horizontal markets or commodity products.

GBM: HP dropped the TC1100 hybrid tablet in favor of convertible tablets? Is that indicative of the market for slate Tablet PCs?

Eckert: The market for slates is dynamic and vibrant, and has allowed Motion to grow rapidly.  Tablets, when combined with the right specialized software, are creating tremendous ROI for customers and that’s what matters and will continue to drive the market.

GBM: It is 2008. Realistically speaking, what does the mobile space look like? Have most OEMs outfitted their notebooks with active digitizers? Are kids and soccer moms carrying ““Lifestyle PCs”? Have slates turned a corner and finally become a dominant form factor for the average business person?

Eckert: Over the next few years, we’ll see computing devices become more connected, intuitive, personalized and mobile.  As wireless broadband connections become more pervasive and with higher bandwidth, it will enable new ways of computing and the introduction of new applications and devices.  Motion’s mission is to inspire productivity through innovative mobile technology and we intend to continue as a leader in the mobile computing category as this new environment unfolds.

GBM: Talk to me about Motion’s relationship with ISVs When Motion is going in to a particular client with a potential large install base, what can ISVs do to make sure that Motion knows about their product, and if necessary, involves them in the process? Many of the ISVs that I talk to are frustrated because they never learn about these large deployments until after the fact.

Eckert: Of the major tablet providers, Motion by far has the most aggressive partnership program with the ISV community.  We have more than 375 ISV partners in our program that receive development and marketing support and are connected with Motion sales and our channel sales partners.  We’ve worked out a collaborative model for this program, by which sales introductions are made by Motion and to Motion.  We train our channel partners on our ISV partners’ products to make sure that the end customer sees an integrated solution — the right software on the right tablet with the right wireless configuration, service, training and support is what makes the sale.

So, I’d recommend checking out our ISV program and signing up.  

GBM: With the introduction last year of the LE1600, many of the M1200 — M1400 owners were quite disturbed about the lack of integration between old accessories and the LE1600.  Mostly it was due to the large amount of money that the accessories cost (docking station, portfolios, etc)  What can customers expect in regards to their current accessories and future models?

Eckert: Customer satisfaction is of course very important to us and the cross-compatibility of peripherals within product families is something that we take seriously when developing new products. For example, the general life cycle of the M-Series product family, which included the platform and peripherals (docking, keyboards, cases, etc.) was approximately three years from the time of launch. Within the life cycle, there were various refreshes, enhancements, and improvements in hardware or software, but the platform and peripherals were cross compatible from their launch in 2002 to their end of life in 2005. During this three-year time period, the M Series had three models in the product family — M1200, M1300, and M1400 — all with cross compatible peripherals.

GBM: I was fortunate enough to test drive an LE1600 prototype at CES that automatically switched between passive and active digitizer mode. Do you envision that option becoming standard in your slates?

Eckert: Microsoft was testing a couple of new tablet technologies at CES and we are pleased that they selected the LE1600 as the reference platform for their tests.

GBM: What role, if any, is Motion playing in Microsoft’s newly announced spec for the UltraMobile / Lifestyle PC? With the LS800, Motion appears to be a great fit there.

Eckert: Microsoft hasn’t announced any specs on this venture.

GBM: When can we expect to see Motion having a visible presence at CES? I realize that CES is called a consumer show, but it is largely regarded as the event for OEMs to be present at. Toshiba soft launched their M400 (clearly a business unit), Fujitsu was there (they are all about business), Lenovo was there, HP was there (although they didn’t have any tablet PCs displayed).

Eckert: Many Motion execs (myself included) attend CES and it’s an event that we’ll continue to evaluate for a more formal Motion presence.  Motion is very active in tradeshows and we currently participate in a large number of them to reach our targeted vertical markets.

GBM: Motion is one of the few OEMs to actively participate in the online communities. I’ve learned in the past two years that most of the OEMs actively read, influencers blogs, etc, but they don’t participate in the discussions and engage the community. What sets Motion apart in that regard? Why is it a priority for Motion?

Eckert: It’s important to us to know what the tablet PC community — blogs, customers, partners, analysts, media — thinks about our products and our industry.  We pay attention to the feedback and know good ideas for our products will come from this community.

The difference for Motion is we are the only company among the majors in the tablet PC industry exclusively focused on the tablet PC category.  Therefore, we have to get it right, and the best way to do that is to be an active participant in the ecosystem.

GBM: I really appreciate the time you took in doing this interview. Any closing thoughts for tablet pc community?

Eckert: We’re still in the early stages of seeing what tablets can do.  When deployed correctly, tablets can have a significant impact on the end user computing experience — it’s not just incremental, it can be transformative. At Motion, we’re impressed by both the myriad ways and places people are using this technology and the ecosystem of innovators and solution providers that is emerging to further the cause. We’re pleased to play our part in the tablet revolution and look forward to continuing to work with the tablet community to realize the potential of this technology.

GBM: Some Questions from some readers:

1) Will Motion do an XGA LS800 or an SXGA LE1600?

Eckert: We don’t comment on our product roadmap, but are always investigating new technologies and options.

2) What are they doing about the heat issues? The heat by itself isn’t too bad maybe, but it’s caused either my stylus or the enclosure for the stylus to expand, resulting in a much too snug fit.

When Windows also tells me that my LS800 is too hot and could damage the internals, and therefore it must shutdown, I get scared also.

Eckert: We’ve heard about LS800 heat concerns from time-to-time and encourage people to check our Web site for software updates.

Specific to the pen issue, it’s likely that this issue is the pen, not the tablet, but it’s hard to tell without more information. This customer ought to call Motion’s technical support to identify and diagnose the issue — 866-622-7340.

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