IN-Lite by Kontron
I was working for Kontron when the IN-Lite was launched, in Munich. The international sales force and distribution channel were all represented, and the product manager made quite a show of ‘the reveal’ pulling a sheet off the first production unit – to, it has to be said, tumultuous applause. Kontron had been pretty successful with the IP-Lite, but it had no battery option and was a big heavy lump.
I remember looking at the keyboard with its tiny trackball, and thinking it would be awkward to use. It was. The flaps that covered up the ports were at first ‘held in place’ by little stainless steel springs. They were rubbish. Later models got a more traditional hinge with pins and sockets; but even these were a bit fragile for such an otherwise beautifully put together machine. The pins slid in machined slots in the doors themselves and were sprung by tiny coil springs that would not have looked out of place in a watch.
The IN-Lite was made from a Magnesium alloy that was both very strong and very light. The main structure – flaps aside – was very well put together. The expansion slot was located between the keyboard and the display, and was accessible with the removal of a few screws.
The only downside of magnesium alloy turned out to be that it burns quite well. We were asked by a military customer to test it, and when ignited using a blow-torch, it burned really well. So well, we had to throw it out of a second story window into the parking-lot, in case we set off the building alarms. None ever ignited in normal use as far as I know; so it’s a bit academic to most people.
One other failing of the design was the built in handle. It was probably sourced from a third-party vendor, and it worked just fine if the load forces were kept perpendicular. It had lovely machined sliding hinges that looked beautiful. Unfortunately, yanking the handle upward when the unit sat on a desk (forces 90 degrees to the carrying direction) could cause the handle to split in half. This meant our service engineer had to go on-site to a large military customer and completely re-assemble and epoxy about 100 handles. All in all a nice product though.