Editor’s note: Trendsetters is a regular LTW feature that focuses on emerging companies and new trends in technology.As Tablet PCs become the notepads of the 21st century, Mobile Internet Corporation (Mi-Co) says its Mi-Forms are the enterprise data capture solution for these devices…”the paper in those pads.”

The new Microsoft Tablet PC works with the mobile data capture feature of Mi-Co’s Mi-Forms Software System. The company says its solution moves technology closer to “true efficient” data capture in the mobile world.

“The goal at Mi-Co was to develop a software platform that could work with a variety of hardware devices to capture and recognize handwriting and thus be ‘hardware agnostic’,” explains Jim Clary, the president and co-founded of Mi-Co. “We decided to focus on enterprise applications where paper forms are presently widely used and we can show a near-term ROI by automating the paper forms-based data capture process. The result is what has been branded Mi-Forms.”

Mi-Co is an RTP-based maker of electronic data technology that lets users to digitally capture handwritten information. The Mi-Forms software used in other handwriting-recognition applications can now be used with the latest technology from Microsoft.

What’s a tablet?

The Tablet PC is similar to laptops, and comes with advanced handwriting-recognition software and a special display screen that works with an electronic pen for taking notes. It is a fully functioning notebook that runs Windows XP Tablet PC edition. Thin and lightweight, the devices are being built to Microsoft specifications by computer companies such as Acer and Toshiba.

“Betting on Microsoft is generally a smart move, and they really are spending an extensive amount of money on marketing and investing a significant amount into research and development on the Tablet PC,” says Barrett Joyner, senior VP of sales and marketing for Mi-Co. “There will be a market for this technology, but of course the $64 question is ‘How big a market?’ Bill Gates thinks it will be huge; folks like Michael Dell aren’t so sure. But Microsoft does have a bunch of big time hardware vendors supporting this platform.”

Mi-Co is supporting this platform, Joyner says, to give its customers and prospects flexibility in their decisions regarding where and how to deploy the Mi-Forms System for mobile data capture, verification, transmission and integration into their enterprise databases.

“This was the key reason for our support of the Tablet PCs, as is our support of other platforms,” Joyner says. “Our device-independent architecture allows us to do this for our customers.”

The software development team at Mi-Co has been tracking this and similar technology for the last three years, Joyner adds, and has an “excellent understanding” of enterprise applications that incorporate handwriting recognition and pen based computing.

Mi-Co is selling Mi-Forms to enterprises that support many applications across multiple hardware realizations. While it started with a stylus-on-screen and a paper-based handwriting capture platform based upon Pocket PCs, the same Mi-Forms software also runs on Tablet PCs as well as the new Logitech io pen-only devices, which also were announced recently.

“Therefore,” Clary says, “Mi-Co offers our enterprise customers a variety of handwritten forms data capture options while ensuring that their important software investment will not become obsolete as new hardware platforms continue to become available.”

All in the family

According to Clary, the whole idea at Mi-Co of “putting handwriting to work” came from his son Greg, who serves as chief technology officer of the company. Following his graduation from Duke, Greg joined IBM’s T. J. Watson Laboratories in New York, where he worked in the handwriting capture and recognition R&D group. This group at IBM developed the technology that became the CrossPad, which was later built and sold by the A. T. Cross Pen company for consumer applications.

“The Mi-Co team has been developing applications for data capture and handwriting recognition systems for over a decade, and we are excited about the directions that Microsoft has taken,” Greg said. “With Mi-Co extending our solution to the Tablet PC we are increasing the choices for our customers and target markets in the area of efficient data capture.”

Joyner concurs.

“There has been real excitement around the Tablet PC because many feel that the technology has matured for enterprise applications,” he says. “From the Mi-Co perspective, when our customers move in this direction, we will be ready to support them fully.”

Mi-Co: www.mi-corporation.com

Microsoft Tablet PC: www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/tabletpc