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PAC Mate with JAWS® for Pocket PC Technology

PAC Mate - The world's first accessible Pocket PC device for those who are blind.

In October 2002, Freedom Scientific launched a successful breakthrough in assistive technology when we introduced the PAC Mate. Since then, the reaction has been overwhelming. The following is a handful of the many frequently asked questions we've received since the world's first accessible Pocket PC hit the market.

Question: What is PAC Mate and what makes it different from notetakers?

Answer: It is impossible to compare PAC Mate to the notetakers or personal data assistants that currently exist. Essentially, it functions as a portable computer for those who are blind and provides a link between everyday desktop applications and the needs of busy lifestyles.

This is the first blindness product that is tightly interwoven with off-the-shelf Microsoft® Pocket PC applications. It includes, but does not rely on proprietary applications, but capitalizes on the resources of Microsoft and the other companies who are building hardware and software for the Pocket PC and Windows® CE platform.

PAC Mate gives you the unbeatable combination of three leaders in their respective fields; the perfect partnership between the capabilities of Freedom Scientific, the application prowess of Microsoft, and the hardware processor power of Intel.

Question: How does PAC Mate integrate applications that were developed for sighted users?

Answer: This is where Freedom Scientific was at an advantage. Utilizing JAWS which was already developed for Windows, we were able to capitalize on that same capability to support Windows® CE and the applications that have already been built for the handheld devices used by sighted individuals such as the Compaq iPaq. And the powerful scripting capability of JAWS allowed us to customize those applications to be productive for the blind even though they had never been developed with accessibility in mind. But, because of the technological expertise of our developers, we were successful in creating a device that will ultimately take the place of laptop PCs for blind individuals.

Question: So JAWS is, in effect, the backbone of making PAC Mate work?

Answer: Yes. There is no other screen reader that does what JAWS can do in the PC environment with Windows applications, Braille composition and speech output. When Freedom Scientific was successful making JAWS technology work in the Windows® CE operating system, we knew that the marriage would be revolutionary.

Question: Does this mean that Eloquence is the speech synthesizer?

Answer: Yes, and in multiple languages. We will continue to add more languages.

Question: Aren't there similar products that claim to run on the Windows® CE platform?

Answer: Again, there is no product comparable to PAC Mate. There's nothing like it in the world. The current technology in conventional standard notetakers with the Windows® CE platform cannot support any of the Pocket PC suite of applications. These typical notetakers depend solely on their own proprietary software to perform all application functions.

Question: You said PAC Mate would have applications available other than the Pocket PC options?

Answer: Absolutely. Freedom Scientific understands that there are specific applications that are important for users who are blind and otherwise unavailable in the consumer PC market. We will continue our long tradition of adding superior custom crafted functions and features specifically for those who are blind, giving users the ultimate in choice. Some of these applications will include a traditional style calculator, an editor that supports linear formatting, and a clock and stopwatch.

Question: What will be the order of release of the PAC Mate family?

Answer: We are taking orders for the PAC Mate Portable Braille Display. These 20- or 40-cell Braille Displays attach to either the PAC Mate BNS with Braille in and speech out capabilities or the PAC Mate TNS with a QWERTY-style keyboard with speech output. An integrated version is next in line.

Question: Does this mean the end of Freedom Scientific's current notetaker line?

Answer: No, not at all. And this goes back to need and familiarity. One of the prime markets for the PAC Mate is for those customers who are already familiar with PC applications or have a desire to learn Windows applications. This will be the perfect choice for those who are in professional or educational environments where Windows is the operating system of choice. With PAC Mate, they will have the highest level of interface with their PC running Windows, or others working on the same assignment.

Our current notetakers are ideal for those who are familiar and comfortable with current notetaker technology, but are looking for additional productivity features such as rapid navigation and email capabilities, to name a few.

Question: Will there be Internet access with the PAC Mate?

Answer: Yes, there are Internet capabilities in PAC Mate. Because of changing technology, Freedom Scientific engineers wanted to give users the choice of purchasing a modem that best fits their needs and budgets. With the PC card connection on the PAC Mate, users can purchase a modem of their choice, whether it is dial-up or broadband. In addition, this is the first unit to access streaming media with synthesizer speech on the same sound card. In other words, users can continue to use the speech function while listening to Internet broadcasts through Pocket Internet Explorer.

PC card connection allows users to purchase peripherals they need, such as a modem, micro-drive, Ethernet card, Wireless LAN card, Bluetooth, cellular modem and others. By providing the open architecture with the PC card, PAC Mate has the flexibility to always stay up to date with the latest and greatest technology.

Question: What types of ports are included in the hardware design?

Answer: There is a USB port for connection with desktops, laptops, printers and other devices in either host or client mode. There also is an infrared port that will allow the user to transfer files between PAC Mate and other PC products. As an example, a person can transfer an Excel worksheet from his or her PAC Mate to a desktop PC or laptop, or vice versa. The exchange of documents can even be accomplished wirelessly. As you can imagine, this provides extraordinary document management within the Windows environment.

We have also included a Compact Flash™ port for unlimited document storage capacity when used with commercial data storage cards and a serial port for use in those circumstances where a USB and an infrared port are not applicable for connectivity.

Question: What makes navigation with the PAC Mate so superior?

Answer: The PAC Mate BNS is the first unit of this size with a Cursor Cross for two-dimensional navigation. It has a redesigned eight-dot keyboard arranged to match the natural placement of fingers. In addition, the function keys are located for easy reach, but out of the way to avoid accidental activation. The PAC Mate TNS will give users the ability to set up familiar, standard JAWS commands. Our engineers and developers solicited input from focus groups in order to design the unit for the most efficient navigation possible.

Question: Can PAC Mate input and output in Grade 2 Braille?

Answer: PAC Mate was designed to write or output in Grade 2 Braille without the cumbersome, multiple keystrokes found currently in traditional notetakers. For example, when in Pocket Word, the user is just two keystrokes away from writing in Grade 2 Braille and one keystroke translates the file to or from Grade 2. This easy conversion also is available in Pocket Outlook and FS Editor, Freedom Scientific's proprietary word processing program.

Question: How big is the PAC Mate?

Answer: It has a unique, compact design. It's approximately 10 inches across at the bottom of the unit and approximately 6 inches in height, and weighs a little more than 1-½ pounds with the user-replaceable battery installed. The TNS model is 12 inches across and 6 inches in height and weighs just more than 2 pounds with the battery.

Question: What about the user-replaceable battery?

Answer: This is a great feature, and one customers will love for at least two reasons. First, it provides them with the opportunity to purchase additional batteries to assure power is always available. Second, they never have to return their unit for battery replacement. There is no special battery charger unit to worry about. The charge takes place directly into the PAC Mate.

Question: What is the power storage of the battery?

Answer: We continue to make refinements and are targeting 18 hours, during typical usage. However, it is conceivable, and our engineers are optimistic that it could be more.

Question: Will PAC Mate be able to work with a Global Positioning System?

Answer: Yes. We anticipate announcing an optional GPS component that will provide orientation by describing surroundings and assist in directing users to a predefined location. We anticipate releasing sometime in 2003.

Question: How much will the PAC Mate cost?

Answer: PAC Mate BNS and TNS will be priced at $2,595. This includes the carrying case but does not include the modem. The optional modem will be $155 (56K or Ethernet). The PAC Mate 20-cell Portable Braille Display is $1,995 ($1,895 for existing PAC Mate owners, or for those who purchase the Portable Braille Displays along with a PAC Mate). The PAC Mate 40-cell Portable Braille Display is $3,995 ($3,695 for existing PAC Mate owners, or for those who purchase the Portable Braille Displays along with a PAC Mate). You can offset the cost by trading in an older model Freedom Scientific notetaker. Depending on the trade, you can save up to $800. Prices are in U.S. dollars and are subject to change.

Question: Will there be maintenance agreements available as with other Freedom Scientific products?

Answer: Yes, we are offering a Product Maintenance Agreement for both models. The cost is $175 annually at the time of the initial purchase and $225 annually after you buy. The PMA for the braille displays are $250 for the 20-cell unit and $450 for the 40-cell unit. We also are offering an Annual Software Agreement, so you may receive the latest versions of Freedom Scientific PAC Mate software. For complete information on Product Maintenance agreement you can access PMA. For more details on the ASA access: ASA.

 

 

 

 

 

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