This Pen Computer May Have Staying Power

Pen-based computers have been ballyhooed as the next blockbuster product in the PC world--the only question is, when? So far, high prices, short battery life, and the lack of 100% accuracy in handwriting recognition have severely limited sales. But in September, privately held PI Systems Corp. in Portland, Ore., plans to start shipping a notebook-size pen computer that challenges some of those barriers. Weighing under 3 pounds, the $1,895 Infolio runs for 12 hours on six AA batteries. While it can do such tricks as capture signatures, Infolio doesn't use the MS-DOS software used by IBM-compatible PCs. PI says the product should appeal to customers doing specific tasks, such as insurance claims adjusters.

Meanwhile, the slow development of the pen market has sidelined an industry pioneer. Momenta Corp. in Mountain View, Calif., is shutting down only three years after opening. Last October, Momenta made a big splash with its advanced pentop. But the high price--$4,995--and production delays doomed the machine. In early August, the privately held company laid off most of its 50 remaining employees. Momenta backers are seeking buyers for the company's technology.

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