"It's given us a tremendous boost in the marketplace and makes people stand up and take notice," said Jon-Erik Prichard, Aqcess' president.
In 1993, Jon-Erik Prichard was working as the creative director for an ad agency that worked with telecommunications companies.
One of the main thrusts in the industry at the time was wireless communications.
Then one day, "It all just came to me," says Prichard
realized combining wireless technology with speech and handwriting recognition software would result in a truly mobile computer with user-friendly communications features.
People could use this computer any time, anywhere without bothering to hook up to a modem or a networking cable, even forfeiting the need for a keyboard or a mouse.
In November 1999, Prichard
Qbe Personal Computing Tablet, a product that Prichard
company, Aqcess Technologies Inc.
, "can't make fast enough to meet demand.
The company is now shipping 5,000 units per month.
At 14-by-10-by-1.6 inches, the Qbe is sleek, snappy and just slightly larger than a tablet of paper.
The entire device is a full-sized screen that has speech and handwriting software, a stylus for moving the cursor (or writing) on-screen and even a digital camera with video-conferencing and still-photo capabilities.
It requires no keyboard, no wires and no mouse (though all three are available for people wanting to work at a desk in a traditional office setting).
began by selling a business version that was in the $4,000 range.
The market responding fastest to the Qbe has been real estate, where employees are always on the road and frequently need to convey visual images to customers.
A consumer version at a lower cost is expected to be released late this year and will be priced under $2,000.
This new device will allow consumers to do everything from read a downloaded book in bed to comparison shop on the Net while browsing at the mall.
Of course, most of us can see the benefits of the Qbe immediately, which is why the product appears to be a runaway success in today's market.
But to get the product out in 2000, Prichard
had to commit to the idea in 1995...before the Internet was popular, before Palm Pilots were on the market, even before the first effective speech and handwriting software had been developed.
Almost everyone thought he
In fact, most people didn't believe many of the future technologies Prichard was counting on would ever exist.
made that transition from potential kook to bona fide genius by being right on target with his
struggled for six years against seemingly impossible odds, Prichard
believed in his
ideas and never doubted that his
product would be perfect for the market once it was ready.
Here is a breakdown of the trials and tribulations he
endured and the way his
vision "saved" him:
"I financed this entire year from my savings," Prichard
"I received some financing but was still working without a salary," Prichard
It was a tough year, with Prichard running low on resources but nonetheless managing to put together some working models and demonstrate his
Years Three and Four.
spent these years further developing the product, deciding what markets to focus on and setting up a plan for launching the product.
finally raised enough money to start taking a salary.
Years Five and Six.
started to pre-sell his
product through press releases, attending trade shows and via his
connection with Ingram-Micro and Tech Data, distributors for his
In addition, Prichard
worked to finalize production details and lined up financing to produce his
initial production run and launch the Qbe.
With the Qbe well-established, Prichard
attention toward the consumer market-place.
created a smaller, lighter version of the Qbe designed specifically for everyday use.