To say that there has been a lot of speculation and misinformation circling the DualCor cPC would be an understatement. To cut through the rumors, I went straight to the source and spoke with Rob Howe, President and COO of DualCor, on October 23, 2006.
After our phone conversation, I emailed him the notes I had taken along with further questions his comments had raised. To clarify, the numbered segments below are my notes based upon Rob’s statements during our conversation.
Below, is the resulting email from him, published verbatim and with his knowledge…
1. Rob never said there would be not be a “version one cPC”. However, the main major processor is already obsolete, and parts availability for version one has become a problem. So the biggest issue at the moment is materials and the resulting prices for the parts used.
Gear Diary: Does this mean that version one might just end up being impractical to make, meaning that it would have to be realistically skipped over for a version two? Or does it simply mean that the components of version one would need to be reworked?
Howe: A little of both. Obviously we won’t release a product with a major part that is or is soon going obsolete. We’re evaluating several options.
2. DualCor is a small company, they need to make a call on where to put their engineering resources.
Gear Diary: So where are resources being put right now; or have things come to a sort of standstill at the moment?
Howe: We are focused in two areas:
1. Continuation engineering on Version 0.9-1.0
2. Development of our next product.
3. As it is, the basic cPC design costs too much; it has 3 processors and 2 boards. Another issue is that the thermals have been hard to engineer; it gets hot when running XP. No hotter than a notebook might, but not everyone understands that this is normal.
Gear Diary: So are you looking for a way to make the device less costly and at the same time more user friendly? What do you feel that that will entail – or do you think that the device is basically there.
Howe: Actually, the cPC has two processors, two boards and a couple of cards for the external devices, pointer and such. As a first-out product, we’re very pleased with the cPC Version 0.9. Customer feedback (that’s why you do engineering sample programs, right?) has taught us a number of things about size, thermals, interface devices and peripherals which we’ll implement going forward. I’m a believer in the Mackenzie principle of integrated marketing. I’ve asked our engineering organization to build processes whereby we are constantly integrating the information we learn from our customers, what is happening in the supply chain and what we see over the horizon into our products as we go along. Bryan Cupps and his team have that concept clearly aligned with their development methodologies.
Gear Diary: Would future models still ship with both XP and WM5, or are you looking to do away with one or the other operating systems?
Howe: The brilliance of the DualCor approach is that the embedded processor running Windows Mobile 5 controls the resources of the device as well as the other processor which is running Windows XP/Vista. That’s what allows the cPC to have such enormous power in such a small package with such long battery life. It’s our core proposition. We not only won’t get away from it, we’re continuing to refine, develop and increase the power of the cPC while making it smaller, sleeker, more versatile, more durable and more elegant. No one else can do what we do without violating our patents.
4. There are several hundred units “out there” in real-life situations, and results have shown that there is a serious demand for version one.
Gear Diary: What industries do you feel would most benefit from a device such as the cPC? Or do you feel it is too limiting to even try to define who would most benefit from this type of device?
Howe: Remember that DualCor is a platform. Whenever companies try to define how people will use a platform, they almost always underestimate the ingenuity of the user. Take text-messaging, for example. Who thought that texting would become as essential as talking for an entire generation of mobile phone users. For us to dictate which industries will find ways to use the DualCor platform to their advantage, would be presumptuous in the extreme. Our job is to provide the platform in an elegant, stable form, make it easy to buy and easy to use. The rest will be up to the users. They’ll devise ways to use the cPC tat we could never have anticipated.
Gear Diary: Are average consumers in the DualCor customer plan at this time? If not, why?
Howe: Absolutely! But aren’t we all “average” consumers of mobile technology? If you use mobile technology, you’re a consumer. The VAR and Reseller-System Integrator industry will find ways to customize the platform for their customers—that’s their value add, and they are far more adept and nimble at it that we could be. Our job is to get the platform right and to make it available where customers want to buy it.
5. Version two will have BT & WiFi, and some way to plug in other wireless protocols. Because of radio frequency issues different radios can’t easily be put inside the “box”, but they can go outside somewhere, say under a sliding screen, without conflict.
Gear Diary: Does this mean that version one will definitely ship “as is”, with no radio installed?
Howe: Bryan Cupps, DualCor founder and CTO, has developed a way to add radios to the first rev. of the cPC. The implementation of that will be determined by the outcome of our decisions on Version 1.0. You can add communications to the cPC today through USB or through the secure digital slot.
Gear Diary: Can you talk about this plug-in module technology a bit more?
Howe: I could, and I will, by not now.
6. DualCor is presently looking for a lead investor – they have the promise of investment from several secondary investors, but they need one lead investor that is not only credible, but who also believes in the product and in the market who will lead the investment.
Gear Diary: Why is a “lead investor” so important? Can you explain in layman’s terms this type investor’s role in bringing a product to market?
Howe: In any venture type of investment, there is generally always a “lead” investor who sets the valuation and issues a “term sheet” which outlines the terms of the investment. Typically, that lead investor is a venture capital firm, or an investment bank or firm which does that sort of thing as its primary business. There are any number of those firms. The more credible that firm is, meaning that it has done successful investment deals in the past in companies like DualCor, the more likely they are to get it right, and that inspires confidence in others to join the investment.
There is risk in all such investments, so the more successful a firm has been with these investments, the more attractive it is for others to “venture” with them. It’s a very interesting time in the venture capital world right now, and the risk appetite for hardware ventures such as DualCor is quite constrained. Hardware is and always has been risky, and, frankly, that is one of the reasons there is such a dearth of innovative hardware solutions today—it’s hard to raise capital for new kinds of hardware. To be fair, venture capital is cautions about taking a risk on innovative or disruptive hardware for fear that it might not succeed, or if it does, it might have a hard time making a profit.
We’ve all seen that happen over the years. Our position, though, is that DualCor does not fit that mold. We believe our protect-able IP (intellectual property), our breakthrough and disruptive designs, and the market requirements for mobile capabilities are all coming together at the same time. And, into the bargain, the DualCor platform is not a commodity. One of the problems with hardware devices in the last ten years, particularly in the platform area, is that everybody has had the same platform at the same time making differentiation very difficult and commoditization a foregone conclusion. Hence, the basis of competition has been price, price, price. DualCor, has an entirely new, uncopyable (without violating our patents) platform that is compatible with the mainstream platforms of the past, but which solves the requirements of the new mobile age. That’s breakthrough, disruptive technology.
It takes a savvy, intelligent, forward-thinking investor to get that. We know those people are out there, and we will continue our search until we find one who will lead our C-round investment.
Our argument at DualCor is that the world is going mobile, and as people get more mobile, they want and need devices that are more and more powerful, more and more flexible, more and more elegant, always on, always available, with virtually endless battery life.
DualCor has developed and patented the foundational technology for those devices; we have the no-compromises platform for the mobile world. I have every belief that we will connect with a venture capital firm who gets that vision and understands the DualCor opportunity, who will elect to lead the investment. After all, that’s what made the technology industry great—venture capital that had the vision and the gumption to catch lightning in a bottle.
Gear Diary: Can I put in the request for a clickable scroll wheel of some type, preferably on the bottom or left edge of the device? And Portrait mode – in both XP and WM5?
Howe: There’s that integrated marketing opportunity again. We hear you, Judie. Both are on the roadmap. Keep the input coming.