Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

During the dot-com boom and even the economic bust, I always found time to sneak away with my family to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

During each trip, I never stopped looking at the technology around me. And there’s plenty to see in The Magic Kingdom, Disney-MGM Studios and Epcot. Handheld and mobile wireless systems are now everywhere in the Mouse House. When you exit the “Test Track” ride in Epcot, you’ll notice Hewlett-Packard Co.’s iPaq handhelds situated next to showroom cars from General Motors Corp. Visitors can use the handhelds to share their personal information and, in return, have product information sent to their homes.

Cool. Fine. Dandy. But not terribly mission-critical. Now, take a stroll over to Disney’s mobile food carts. There, you’ll find “ruggedized” wireless handhelds from Symbol Technologies Inc. The handhelds—basically, tiny point-of-sale systems—work in rain or shine and you’ll find them by the hundreds throughout all of Disney’s Orlando-based theme parks. The Symbol handhelds run standard operating systems (Palm or Windows CE) but are designed to survive harsh weather, unexpected falls and abuse in the field.
Your customers will pay a few extra bucks for Symbol’s ruggedized expertise, but the end-result is a handheld family that never quits on the job.

Elsewhere at Disney World, it’s easy to spot Segway scooters doubling as mobile carts for selling toys to parents (like me) who simply can’t say no to their kids. A Disney employee told me that Epcot has about a dozen Segways that roam the park regularly. However, Disney bans visitors from using Segways in its theme parks—a policy that has upset plenty of visitors (See story,

For a real glimpse of the IT future, check out the biometric fingerprinting systems at each Disney theme park entrance. Season pass holders must use the biometric systems before entering the parks. This prevents pass holders from sharing their tickets with nonpaying customers. You can bet that other theme parks will embrace similar biometric systems in the next 12 to 18 months.

Cleared for Takeoff

Deal 2—Cleared for Takeoff: BIO-key International Inc. earlier this week won a $250,000 contract with Logan International Airport in Boston. Under terms of the deal, BIO-Key will equip Massachusetts State Troopers with HP iPaq’s running specialized software that speeds background checks on passengers and suspects. The software connects cops to the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS), FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and data repositories in other states via the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS). BIO-Key’s crime-fighting software also is being deployed to more than 1000 Massachusetts State Troopers on laptop computers mounted in their cruisers.

Deal 3—What Does EMC Have In Store?: Keep a close eye on EMC Corp.’s developing relationship with FalconStor Software Inc., a storage software specialist located in Melville, N.Y. A few hours before this column reached the Web, EMC licensed certain FalconStor technologies for use in its CLARiiON Disk Library.

FalconStor is a relatively small company with $16.9 million in annual revenue but the firm is pumping more and more sales through the channel. That’s hardly surprising, since FalconStor’s top managers came from Cheyenne Software Inc.—a channel-friendly storage company that Computer Associates International Inc. acquired in 1997.

To grab a piece of the FalconStor action, check in with Wendy Petty, VP of North American Sales at the company. I ran into Petty during my brief stint with Cheyenne in 1996. She’s smart and channel-savvy. CA should have held onto her after the Cheyenne buyout.

I Told You So

Deal 4—I Told You So: In January I heard rumblings that FileNet Corp. and BearingPoint Inc. were preparing a “Compliance Alliance” to help customers adhere to Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPPA and other compliance regulations. (See,1759,1469351,00.asp). That deal finally came to fruition today, with two additional members: Network Appliance Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

Working individually or in combination, the foursome intends to build and market compliance solutions based on FileNet’s content management technology.

It’s too early to say whether small solutions providers will get a piece of the action. Generally speaking, Network Appliance works with big integrators like Accenture Ltd. and Computer Sciences Corp. and Sun’s history with partners is hit and miss. Your best bet is to knock on FileNet’s door. In recent months, the content management specialist has reached out to more and more channel partners (see to build new revenue streams.

About Contract Watch: Each week, this column examines customer engagements that are stirring the channel, and the solutions providers behind them. Our goal is to strip away the hype and tell you what’s really selling—and what isn’t—in today’s IT marketplace. Send your tips to my e-mail address below.

Joseph C. Panettieri has covered Silicon Valley since 1992. He is editorial director of the New York Institute of Technology . Write to him at