Exciting times ahead for plug-in and wireless devices

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Socket Communications develops innovative data collection and network connectivity products for use with mobile computing devicesrugged and consumer hand helds/PDAs, smartphones and tablet PCs.

The company was founded in 1992 and, from a conversation with Martin Croome (pictured right), the companys general manager for its European operation, it has never looked back, going from strength to strength in the exciting mobile computing market.

Sockets product offerings fall into the following categories

  • Data collection products: bar code scanning and RFID solutions, plug in and wireless, for converting mobile devices into portable bar code scanners or RFID readers that can be used in various retail and industrial workplaces.
  • Connectivity products: these are plug-in products that are utilised with mobile computers and offer a range of mobile connectivity options over wireless and wired connections. Wireless connection products include cards using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi cards. Stand alone cordless products using Bluetooth technology include a GPS receiver, a 56K modem, a laser bar code scanner, and a general purpose serial I/O port. Cable connection products include modems for telephone connections and Ethernet cards for local area network connections.
  • Serial PC cards: legacy business connectivity solutions for desktop PCs.
  • Embedded (OEM) products and services: here the company works with well-known names, including Intermec, Hand Held Products and Symbol.

Route to market
According to Croome, the companys major business - and 99 per cent of it in Europe - is through indirect sales. There is some direct sales activity in the US, but this does not impact the European operations efforts. The company follows a classic two-tier model, with VARs, SIs and online sales channels playing a very important role. As for the IT retailer, Croome says that very few products would be suitable for such outlets but the situation could change in the future as the company pursues new opportunities.

European market outlook
Croome says that Europe mirrors the worldwide market and refers to two waves. The first being consumer driven demand for mobile phones and PDAs; the second wave being business deployment of mobile devices. The interaction between the company and its channel shows that there is a lot of interest in developing mobile solutions.

Traditional vertical markets where mobile computing is very much engrained demonstrate continuing strength, for example, logistics. Croome mentioned that the emergence of de facto standards for devices is important, whereas operating systems arent as important as the development environments of .NET and Java.

Mobility is a high agenda item for users and Socket sees this evidenced in its sales. So which of Sockets products are flying out of the doors of its sales channel? Croome says that data collection products are strong sellers and that more and more sales of Bluetooth connected products are seen. He also mentioned the recently launched cordless ring scanner (CRS) 9P, which should do well in such environments as warehousing. This device provides laser bar code scanning with the convenience of Bluetooth wireless technology to provide an efficient, hands-free scanning solution. The CRS 9P is ergonomically designed to fit comfortably on the index finger and utilizes an exclusive Liquidmetal casing, which is over twice the strength of titanium, enabling a lighter, more compact design. The CRS 9P is IP54 compliant for water and dust resistance and can sustain multiple drops from four feet. The CRS 9P also features Fuzzy Logic technology for scanning damaged, poor quality or hard-to-read bar codes.

The development of the CRS 9P Croome says: reflects our confidence in that market. And the more you learn about Socket, the more you get to understand that this is a very confident company that boasts the worlds most complete range of plug in and cordless devices.

So, what does Croome think is really interesting; the most exciting thing on the horizon? He says that there is a real opportunity to take powerful hand held computers that arent being used to their full potential, i.e. todays feature packed mobile phones, into fully functional mobile tools. It is this imaginative brainstorming that keeps companies like Socket out in pole position.

Growing the sales channel
Croome says Sockets wholesaler base is established and its reseller base is expanding. He is looking for resellers who develop applications and encourages them to make contact.

The company has a well-established support programme called the Strategic Vertical Integrator programme.

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