HP-95 PALMTOP: POWER IN A SMALL PACKAGE
(since April 22, 1997)
Last Update: August 14, 2021 -- THE HP REFERENCE
July 08, 1991
Two technology giants team up on an innovative
computer that is 'unconsciously portable'
Debra Bulkeley, Contributing Editor
September 15, 1997
From automobiles to airplanes, HPP automobiles to companies are
forming technical alliances to design better products and bring
them to market faster. Such alliances were rare until a few years
ago. Now, almost daily comes word of new relationships between
domestic companies as well as foreign and U.S. firms. Among
One alliance has resulted in what many analysts are calling a new
class of computer. Lotus Development Corp., Cambridge, MA, and
Hewlett-Packard's Corvallis, OR, division have joined hands to
produce an I l-ounce, IBM-compatible PC with Lotus 1-2-3 built in.
Portable 1-2-3. It all started with Leon Navickas, general manager
of R&D for Lotus. He wanted a product that would let Lotus' 14
million 1-2-3 users take their data anywhere easily.
The only glitch was that Lotus is in the business of selling
software, and Navickas' idea was for a checkbook-sized PC with
Lotus 1-2-3 built in. So in September 1989, armed with a wooden
model of his vision of the computer, Navickas visited several
leading consumer electronics companies in the U.S. and Japan.
Ironically, one company he visited Hewlett-Packard had a
hand-held product in the design phase. Although the products
were by no means identical, everything clicked. A match was made
between two engineering departments separated by 3,000 miles.
In April 1991, just slightly more than a year after the technical
alliance was formalized, Lotus and Hewlett-Packard's (HP) Corvallis
Div. announced the HP 95LX, the equivalent of a 640K PC that fits
into a coat pocket. It costs $699.
"We didn't have to convince each other about this product, so we
were able to move fast," says Dan Terpack, general manager of HP's
Corvallis Div. The division is responsible for developing HP's
Adds Navickas: "If we were to try to produce this product alone, it
would have taken us about two years, we would have spent a lot
more money, and we would have made a lot more mistakes."
The evolution of the HP 95LX HP evolution of the HP 95 shows how
engineers from different companies can work together to create a
state-of-the-art product. While HP and Lotus are the main players
in the alliance, the design effort involved several other high-
powered technology companies: Intel for the custom IC, Microsoft
for the PC operating system, Hitachi for the liquid crystal display,
and Motorola for a wireless communication feature that will be
available at the end of the year.
"Alliances are very important," says Terpack of HP. "We're in a
very competitive environment, and none of us has the resources to
do everything ourselves. This is the way to compete in the 90s."
A real team effort. About 50 people from Lotus and HP were involved
in developing the computer, code-named Jaguar.
Logically, it would seem that the tasks of developing the palmtop
computer would be clear cut: Lotus would handle the software side and
HP the hardware development. This wasn't the case at all.
- Boeing and Germany's Deutsche Airbus/Deutsche Aerospace plan
joint research efforts on a supersonic high-speed civil transport.
Boeing also signed a memorandum of understanding with France's
Thomson CSF to work together on aerospace products.
- AT&T and NEC Corp. will agree to share basic technologies on
semiconductors. Experts say it is potentially the most extensive
U.S.-Japan chip alliance.
- Allied-Signal's High Performance Fibers unit and Himont, Inc.
will create and commercialize a new generation of olehmbased
polymers and copolymers to expand the application potential of
- Compaq Computer Corp. recently invested $185 million in Silicon
Graphics, inc. as part of a strategic alliance to allow the maker
of powerful workstations to accelerate its R&D efforts. The
companies also plan to work on future product development.
PALMTOP ASSEMBLY PICTURE
"It's tough to point out that HP did this or Lotus did that. We
really worked as a team," says Jerry Erickson, R&D Section Manager
for the Corvallis Div.
Engineers from both companies stress that each group had its own
ideas about certain features of the computer, regardless of whether
the issue was hardware or software.
And they didn't always agree.
"Sure, we had plenty of conflicts," says Al Blanchette, manager of
product development for Lotus on the project, "but we never got to
the point where we had shouting or screaming matches or real
arguments about things. We'd present our side, they'd present their
side, and we'd reach a conclusion."
Adds Eric Schultz, systems architect for Lotus: "We really had
respect for each other's expertise."
One design issue was the amount of costly RAM for the computer.
HP initially designed the palmtop with 256K.
"This was one of the places where Eric quickly realized that there
was no way the machine was going to be as effective as it needs
to be to sell with 256K," says Blanchette. "The hardware designers
went off and solved the problem they weren't so sure was going to
be solvable at the beginning of the project. But they got us what
we needed, and I think the product is much better off for it."
Not all the challenges centered around design issues. Engineers
also had to work around a three-hour time difference and the
"Working across a 3,000-mile area, it obviously wasn't possible to
go to their facility to see things, and get equipment from them,"
Blanchette says. Solution: They set up electronic communications.
Lotus engineers typically worked until at least 10 p.m. most days.
Blanchette and Erickson even met in Denver a couple of times.
"It was one plane stop for both of us," Erickson says.
Power-packed tool. The alliance produced a computer that offers a
wealth of technology. According to Lotus, it offers more than twice
the performance of a computer with a PC-XT architecture. It runs on
MSDOS ROM Version 3.22, offers 512K bytes RAM and 1 M-byte ROM; and
has a Qwerty and a separate numeric keypad.
The machine stores data on credit-card sized memory cards and can
plug into printers and into modems to transmit data over phone lines.
The palmtop is able to run on two AA batteries for about 60 hours--an
important feature for an on-the-road machine. It also has a backup
battery for data protection.
On the software side, HP 95LX has six built-in applications, which
all run directly from ROM. In audition to Release 2.2 of Lotus 1-2-3,
the palmtop has an HP advanced financial calculator; an appointment
and phone book; a memo editor; data communications capabilities; and
a file manager.
Lotus engineers developed all of the application software except the
calculator. HP integrated the features of its high-end financial
calculator into the palmtop "and more," says Terpack. The palmtop
supports third-party applications.
The liquid crystal display screen is 16 lines by 40 columns; it
offers a 240 by 128 dot matrix display and can run 1-2-3 graphics.
It has a serial 1/0, and supports the Hayes modem protocol. The
plug-in memory card slot supports the PC Memory Card International
Association (PCMCIA 1.0) and Japanese Electronic Industry
Development Association (JEIDA 4.0) international standards, which
will open the door for companies to develop peripherals for the
palmtop. Compatible portable peripherals currently available from
other manufacturers include the Diconix 150 Plus portable printer
from Kodak, and a portable Worldport 2400-baud modem from Touchbase
A terminal emulator lets users connect into public data bases,
bulletin boards, and electronic mail systems. The palmtop offers
some interesting connectivity features. An optional HP F1001A
connectivity pack, which sells for $99.95 and has all the software
of the palmtop except Lotus 1-2-3 and terminal emulation, lets users
upload information from their desktop PC to the 95LX. This would let
someone, for example, merge the 1-2-3 spreadsheet or appointment
book that resides on their desktop to the palmtop. A two-way infrared
feature--a technology that HP has used since 1986 in its high-end
calculator--lets two 1-2-3 on the go. The HP 99LX portable computer
is targeted to 1-2-3 users who need their numbers with them at all
times as they travel.
LX users transmit data from less than a foot away.
And look for more 95LX add-ons in the future, such as third-party
applications on ROM cards. Later this year, Motorola will offer the
DataStream Advanced information Receiver, a pocket-pager-sized device
that plugs into the computer and lets it receive data or messages of
as many as 32,000 characters from existing pager networks. It will
weigh only 3 1/2 oz. This will allow users to receive radio mail on
their portable computer.
Targeting the market. Users can access 1-2-3 on the HP 95LX by merely
pressing a key that has the 1-2-3 logo on it.
"Lotus users have been asking us to make their information more
mobile, "explains Navickas. "We're not replacing their desktop PC;
we're not suggesting that this is even a notebook or a laptop.
This is maybe somebody's third computer. We want to give the user
the benefit of instant analysis anywhere. Any spreadsheet that you
can run on a 640K PC you should be able to put on the HP 95LX and
run without any changes," he says.
But both companies see the palmtop as having more far-reaching
appeal than 1-2-3 users.
"We call this computer unconsciously portable. You can throw it in
your briefcase and not even know it's there," Terpack of HP says.
"This product has the widest band of popularity of any product we've
marketed." He refuses to reveal production figures, however.
Some 355,000 palmtop units will ship this year in the U.S. and
800,000 worldwide, according to market projections from researcher
Dataquest. This number will jump, predicts Dataquest, to about 3.2
million in the U.S. and 5.2 million worldwide by 1994.
HP is handling the manufacturing and the distribution of the 95LX.
The distribution channels will include HP's contacts in consumer
electronics, the PC peripheral market, and Lotus' software channels.
English and international English versions of the product are
currently shipping, and versions in French, German, Italian,
Spanish, and Portuguese will be available in the third quarter of
The Calculator Reference by Rick Furr (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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