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Moves In The Technology Arena

January 20, 2000

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One combatant in the mobile communications war is flexing new muscle.
PeopleNet Communications Corp. of Chaska, MN, the providers of the InTouch Fleet Management System, announced the appointment of new CEO John Sarto, former president of Qualcomm's OmniTRACS division. At the same time, and certainly not by coincidence, PeopleNet received an investment infusion of $25 million.
The InTouch system, which includes global positioning, has been a low-cost leader in mobile communications for trucking. It was the first to link customers to a communications service center through secure web sites, an idea now widely copied. InTouch provides both voice and data communications over cellular networks, which means coverage is less than universal.
Sarto promised to "expand those efforts into even broader areas of business solutions and information management within the supply chain."
What that actually means remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, in California's Silicon Valley, a company named Transmeta (www.transmeta.com) introduced a new computer processor chip called the Crusoe that will compete directly with popular Intel chips, particularly in the laptop computer market.

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Truckers will be interested in Crusoe because it uses little power and generates little heat, thus it requires much less power to run. According to the rosiest predictions, laptops with Crusoe chips will be able to run the same software as other computers, but for an entire day on a single battery charge. Less optimistic estimates say Crusoe will double laptop battery life.
There are no estimates on cost yet, but Crusoe chips, much less expensive than Intel models, are already in demand by computer makers and will be manufactured by IBM, among others. You'll be seeing them on the market very soon.
Further down the road is another power-saving development from Motorola -- a miniature fuel cell that uses liquid methanol. According to a company press release this week, "the fuel cells, which are still about three to five years away from store shelves, could power a wireless phone for more than a month and keep a laptop running for 20 hours."
Of course if that laptop contains a Crusoe chip, it could presumably run for days.

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