Here’s what someone should build (Tom – Are you listening?):

It seems patently obvious that there would be a market for an entirely self-contained, easy to use SOHO inventory management device. Call it “Library in a Pocket” or something like that, but all you need is a cheap little ARM based Linux handheld with a barcode and RFID scanner. There are people who have cludged together similar systems for PalmOS and Linux, but most commit a number of common sins:

A: Expect some other backend to be used alongside the handheld package.
B: Build it around add-ons to existing PDAs and PC hardware.
C: Lack of polished, focused design targeting the real potential users of these products.

When you eliminate any notion that another device or computer is a relevant part of this system and make it so obvious that no training is necessary to bring in and check out an item from the device itself (picture IN & OUT buttons that are as easy to use as the thumbs-up and thumbs-down buttons on a Tivo), you create something simple enough that pack rats, small rental firms, small shops, etc. can reliably keep their entire inventory on that single, portable, easy-to-manage device. Add a numeric keypad to allow manual entry of barcode numbers and invoice numbers for associated POS systems, and you find yourself stripped of any need to maintain a seperate scanning device for it.

Obviously the user needs the ability to generate certain reports based on this data, but there’s no reason that can’t be done in the device: A little 200mhz ARM would be far more powerful than necessary to generate CSV data for manipulation in common database and spreadsheet applications and to turn it into one or two basic ODF or PDF reports.

/End of rant