AlphaSmart has long competed with Apple and other laptop makers for the educational market by producing low-cost portable computing devices that combine full-sized keyboards and simple character-based LCD displays with instant PC and Mac connectivity. Until now, however, the devices haven’t utilized Palm OS. Initially aimed at students when it was first introduced earlier this year, AlphaSmart said Dana has “generated interest from a wide variety of mobile professionals.”
Admittedly, Dana is quite different looking from the clamshell-based eMate, but there are similarities. Dana features an all in one design with a full-sized keyboard and a touchscreen LCD display that can also be used with a stylus.
Weighting about two pounds, Dana is about 12-inches wide, nine-inches deep and one-inch high. The backlit LCD screen measures about 7 1/2-inches wide and 2 1/4-inches high, and displays 560 x 160 pixels. It comes with two expansion slots for memory or Secure Digital (SD) or MultiMediaCard (MMC) peripherals.
With two on-board USB interfaces, Dana also supports direct printing via USB or an IrDA-enabled printer. It can synchronize data to a PC or Mac through USB as well. It comes with a rechargeable battery that’s good for about 25 hours before it needs to be juiced. An AC adapter is included too.
Dana offers a wide variety of customization options — QWERTY or Dvorak keyboard layouts; font and font size; and 90-degree screen rotation. Dana is also set up to accommodate physically challenged users with left-hand or right-hand only keyboard usage, sticky key support, slow keys and more.
Dana ships with software including AlphaWord, word processing software with built-in spell checker and thesaurus; Quickoffice from Cutting Edge Software, which provides Excel and Word document editing; Aileron Mail, an e-mail client; Palm Reader, an eBook viewing tool; PrintBoy, printing software; and FontBucket, font management software from Hands High Software. Dana Admin — a software app that lets teachers control the functions of a student’s Dana — is also available.
Dana is available directly from AlphaSmart for US$399; educational pricing for school districts is also available.