7-Eleven drops DOS, moves to .Net

Retailing giant 7-Eleven announced this week that it will transition its 5,300 convenience stores from using a DOS-based batch data-processing handheld to a somewhat newer CE.net-based device.

The store that never sleeps will partner with Symbol Technologies in a deal worth US$8.5 million to transition to a more modern operating system and more capable handheld, the MC 3000.

The device, built on Microsoft's latest Win CE.net platform, includes IEEE 8012.11b and .11g built into the ruggedized handheld, with a 320 x 320 pixel color display and a laser scanner that uses a rotating turret.

Symbol would not say how many of its customers still use DOS, but Brian Viscount, vice president, product marketing for Symbol's Mobile Computing Division, said it is considerable. "Actually, we use DR-DOS," he said.

DR-DOS is "100 percent compatible with Microsoft DOS 6.22" according to the DR-DOS Web site.

Industry analyst Kevin Burden, research manager, mobile devices, at IDC Research said that while Symbol would probably like to reduce its own costs by moving all of its customers off DOS, leaving DOS behind is not necessarily advantageous to some enterprise users.

"There may not be enough ROI to make the switch if batch processing and DOS works for you. Moving to a new platform is a big investment in hardware, back-end systems, training, and education," said Burden.

Symbol's Viscount said 7-Eleven does think the transition will be beneficial in order to move from batch processing to real time processing for inventory management, price verification, and for downloading and uploading applications over a wireless LAN. Currently the company uses a wired Ethernet cradle. In the future, the company plans to use the devices for point of sale as well.

The old DOS operating system is also not compatible with some current and upcoming IEEE 80.211x security standards, according to Symbol.

For those running DOS applications on their handhelds who want to make the transition from DOS to CE.Net, the MC3000 offers a number of development tools similar to those used by DOS developers.

In addition, Symbol works with partners such as IBM, MCL Technologies, Odyssey Software and Wavelink to recode applications from DOS to CE.net.

The MC3000 comes with 64MB of RAM and an SD (Secure Digital) memory expansion slot, and an Intel (Profile, Products, Articles) XScale PXA270 processor. Communications includes a touch screen, Wi-Fi, high speed USB and 2D imaging through the front scanner.

MC3000 units are available now and will be priced from US$1,195 to $2,200.

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Ephraim Schwartz

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