Ricoh gets into the tablet business, sort of

Ricoh on Tuesday announced a tablet-like device that can function as an e-reader and digital clipboard for enterprises to electronically write, capture and record documents.

The eQuill comes with a 9.7-inch grayscale e-paper display and weighs about one pound (0.45 kilograms). The device is aimed at cutting enterprise costs related to copying and scanning, while reducing paper-borne processes such as forms setup and archiving.

The device captures data through a stylus, camera, voice recorder or soft keyboard, which attaches to the device. The eQuill has a 5-megapixel camera and a 0.95-inch camera display to show snapped pictures.

The tablet is designed to function as a thin, secure client that can automate document management services in companies, said Ron Barr, vice president of marketing at Ricoh.

Tablets such as the iPad are attracting a growing interest in enterprises for applications such as data entry and telephony. But tablets are built more for consumers and not enterprise document management, Barr said.

“Unlike the consumer media tablets cropping up everywhere which are user managed, our tablet is IT-managed,” Barr said.

The eQuill can replace about 80 per cent of the paper processes in a company’s workflow, Barr said.

“This is critical for health care, document management, mobile and other business applications … where regulatory compliance and security mandates require closed, not open, data intake solutions,” Barr said.

Forms can be filled out directly on the device, and a number of security measures have been implemented to ensure documents are securely captured and transferred. Documents can be verified by tracking signatures based on speed, direction and pressure. A verification technique enables tamper-proof signatures that are more reliable than pen-and-paper signs, the company said.

Documents can be routed to workflow systems wirelessly through 3G or Wi-Fi connections. The tablet runs a version of Linux, and its support for advanced scripting language allows developers to write customized forms that can be viewed through a web browser interface.

The eQuill is priced starting at US$500, and will start shipping in the U.S. in the next few months, the company said. Ricoh did not immediately comment about worldwide availability.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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