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By Scott R. Gourley

From the flight lines to the battle lines, ruggedized computers have
become a ubiquitous presence within the modern battlespace. As with the introduction of any revolutionary defense technology, their initial
introduction and expanded fielding during the 1990s came with its share of growing pains. However, as clearly evidenced during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the introductory phase is over. While improvements continue to be made, ruggedized portable computers are well entrenched in military operations with a presence and influence that will only continue to grow throughout this decade.

One recent entrant into the DoD rugged computer market that has shown
remarkable initial success is Itronix Corporation. Based in Spokane,
Washington, Itronix offers a product line of rugged die cast magnesium
portable computers that includes models like the GoBook ® II rugged laptop computer, GoBook MAX ® ultra-rugged laptop computer, and GoBook Tablet PC ® rugged “slate’ tablet computer.

BATTLESPACE recently spoke with Vince Menzione, Vice President for Public Sector, Itronix Corporation, in an effort to learn more about the company’s recent DoD successes in the wireless / rugged computer arena.

According to Menzione, Itronix was established 12 years ago with an
initial business emphasis directed toward the field services world –
providing wireless computer solutions in very large system rollouts
(10,000-15,000 computers) for prestige corporate accounts like Sears,
Verizon, and Bell South.

“That provided a terrific heritage of developing the most ruggedized
commercial laptops, the best wireless solutions, and the best service
solutions in that market space,” he said.

“We had left the Federal government and local markets to Panasonic,
basically,” Menzione continued. “For whatever reason we just didn’t
really go after those markets.”

Avoidance of the Federal / DoD market ended a little over three years ago when Itronix started up their “public sector” efforts. Growth in the sector – which includes Department of Defense – has been impressive: with a three year initial annual growth path running from $2 million to $15 million to $35 million.

“We’re now the largest ‘United States based’ manufacturer of rugged mobile wireless notebook [computer] solutions,” Menzione said. And we have tremendous momentum into the DoD market space.”

He continued, “A lot of the reason for that has been a product that holds up very well – better than the other commercial off the shelf solutions – in sand, dust, driving, rain, and holding up to being dropped. We also offer a wireless capability that’s second to none.”

He also pointed to the advantages of the warranty coverage that the
company paces on the rugged Itronix products.

“We have a ‘bumper to bumper’ warranty that covers everything from
manufacturing defects to accidental misuse and abuse,” he said. “We even cover the batteries as part of the warranty. So for somebody in DoD especially, where costs are an issue, where you usually have the money up front but you may not have sustainment costs built in, having the batteries covered over a three year life is a real benefit.”

Initial Entry

Surprisingly, Menzione says that the Itronix entry into the military
market featured the company being “‘pulled in kicking and screaming’ by the Air Force.”

“The Air Force was already a user of Panasonic, Gateway, Dell, and HP,” he explained. “And there was a ‘rogue’ Master Sergeant at Nellis Air Force Base who had built his own wireless infrastructure to do ‘Point Of Maintenance’ applications. They were already running a program that the Air Force had designed called CAM – Computer Aided Maintenance. And this Master Sergeant had designed his own wireless network and was trying to use laptops on the flight line. And the heat in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the summer was killing all th

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