HONOLULU: Before the Apple iPad (2010), the Asus Transformer (2011) and even Microsoft’s Windows XP Tablet PC Edition OS (2001), there was my Vadem Clio. Uniquely twistable into a variety of configurations, this was an Instant On Windows CE era handheld with mobile MS Office, Internet Explorer and handwriting recognition built-in. I bought it new in 1999.
The Vadem Clio carried a retail price of $999. It was based on Windows CE Handheld PC Pro. Windows CE provided the underlying engine for earlier smaller handheld PCs — as well as the Pocket PCs, Windows Mobile devices,and the current generation of Windows Phone 7.5 Mango devices.
Here’s what was really unique about it: its unique articulated arm design that let the device transform itself among several configurations. You could make it clamshell notebook with a full QWERTY keyboard, a keyboard-less tablet and a few arrangements in between. It was cool. So I placed the battery in my Vadem Clio and powered it up today to take it for a spin again.
The Vadem Clio shipped with a number of apps, so it was fully functional right out of the box. Microsoft Office mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and even Access (database) was bundled in. Other apps included the Internet Explorer web browser, Pocket Outlook (with email, calendar, contacts) and such utilities such as a calculator, the ability to ink write on screen, draw, even fax.
Above, notice the arm design that lets the Clio swing its display 180 degrees into a number of different positions.
The Clio could flip its display to cover its physical keyboard and be used in a slate mode, too. Check out its stylus anchored at the bottom of the display, above.
The unit powered on after a decade or more of retirement. Its ink notebook app is shown in the snapshot above. This 15-year-old tech sure was prescient — these look very much like the notetaking apps available for today’s Apple iPad.
Like 2012 iPad note taking apps, the 1999 Clio also let you take notes in the form of text, ink writing and even graphical hand drawn objects.
When closed, the Clio, with its 10-inch display, looks very much like recent generation netbooks.
The Clio had 16MB of internal storage. Seems tiny, today. It did have, for additional storage, a a PCMCIA (or PC Card slot) available on one side of the unit. Adapters were available to use CompactFlash cards for additional storage. The slot also worked with other PC Card hardware such as Ethernet network adapters.
The other side of the Clio provided an infrared transceiver for short-range wireless communication, an RJ-11 phone jack for the built-in modem and a proprietary port for syncing with a desktop PC.
A speaker and access to the battery compartment is on the bottom of the device.
You can see the battery cover and the battery itself removed from the Clio in the photo above.
The Clio’s Travel Dock adapter could connect to any desktop PC’s RS-232 serial port for syncing files and other data like calendar data and contacts.
Like other Windows CE devices of that generation, Microsoft ActiveSync provided the mechanism for connectivity with the Clio.
The two photos above gives you an idea of the Clio’s size relative to an Apple iPad 2.
The Vadem Clio and other netbook-sized or smaller Handheld PC Pro devices based on Windows CE continued to be introduce into the market for a few more years before disappearing. Microsoft and its hardware partners introduced us to the Tablet PC and Ultramobile PC in the years to come. But we would not see a popular form factor similar to the Handheld PC Pro devices until the summer of 2008 when netbooks running Windows XP started appearing. Today it is all about tablets, of course.
I hope this tour of the 1999 Vadem Clio gives you and inkling of how hardware designs from that period influenced the hardware we see and buy today.