Yes, money is tight, but to be successful you still need to move your business forward. One way to accomplish that is to embrace the latest technology offerings that can help you improve productivity for yourself and for your employees.
We scoured the start-of-year announcements from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and other sources to identify some of the most promising small-biz products for 2009.
New year, new smartphone
|The HP dx9000 TouchSmart Business PC features a productivity-enhancing touch screen.|
The Apple iPhone and BlackBerry Storm (which lacks Wi-Fi) are so last year. The hot Wi-Fi-enabled smartphone in 2009 will be the Palm Pre. Featuring the company’s latest webOS mobile platform, the operating system and device were built from the ground up to be constantly connected to the Internet.
The heart of the system, Palm Synergy, promises to let you seamlessly bring your calendar, contact, and other data together in one view automatically, whether that information resides on your PC, phone, or the Web.
The Palm Pre features a 3.1-inch color touch screen, built-in 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and GPS capabilities, and a slide-out thumb-style QWERTY keyboard. It will support Exchange-hosted e-mail (such as Outlook), as well as your personal POP3 or IMAP accounts (such as Gmail and Yahoo! Mail).
|The Dell Studio XPS 16 combines the big screen of a desktop with the portability of a laptop.|
It’s also a full multimedia player and a 3-megapixel camera, all in a sleek package that weighs less than five ounces. The Palm Pre will be available from Sprint in the first half of the year (pricing will be set closer to launch).
On the desktop, one of the most innovative machines to debut for 2009 is the HP dx9000 TouchSmart Business PC. The space saving all-in-one puts all of the computer’s innards behind a bright 22-inch high-def display. But the real trick is the touch-screen technology built into that panel, which lets you navigate menus and dialog boxes with a touch of your finger.
More importantly, HP says it’s working with business software partners (including DNA Digital Media Group, GuestMVP, Interactive Multimedia Artists and Uniguest) to develop touch applications aimed at small businesses and the retail, health care, hospitality, and education markets.
The upcoming Windows 7 operating system (likely to arrive in 2010) will also make use of the touch-screen abilities. The dx9000 comes pre-loaded with Windows Vista Business 64, an Inte Core 2 Duo P8400 processor, 4GB of memory and a 320GB hard drive. Prices start at $1,399.
|Samsung’s NC10 is one of the best all-around netbooks available.|
Bring your desktop with you
If upgrading to a desktop-replacement notebook is on your to-do list in 2009, consider the Dell Studio XPS 16 (pictured above). As the name implies, the centerpiece of the system is a 16-inch widescreen LCD that gives you plenty of room to see your work. You get a full-sized and exceedingly comfortable keyboard flanked by stereo speakers that make the machine ideal as a presentation platform (there’s a subwoofer built in). Dell even offers an optional Blu-ray drive for enjoying HD movies when you’re off the clock and several wireless broadband options, including 802.11n.
The system weighs 6.5 pounds, which makes it relatively easy to shuttle to and from the office. And all this goodness starts at a reasonable $1,199.
Add a netbook to your arsenal
At the other end of the spectrum, every PC manufacturer is trotting out new netbooks, those diminutive, low-cost notebooks with built-in Wi-Fi designed as take-along companions. The most promising models for 2009 are shaping up to be the HP Mini 2140, Samsung NC10, Dell Mini 12 and Sony LifeStyle PC.
The $499 HP entry has a sleek aluminum-clad body and bright 10.1-inch screen, along with a comfortable keyboard—a rarity among netbooks. Also priced at $499, the Samsung NC10 also gets the keyboard right and packs a 10.2-inch screen and a 160GB hard drive into its 2.8-pound shell.
If you want a larger screen, the $549 Dell Inspiron Mini 12 delivers a crisp 12.1-inch LCD in a still-tote-able 2.7-pound package. If style and connectivity are more important than price, then the Sony LifeStyle PC may be for you. It features built-in mobile broadband and GPS connectivity, though the $900 price tag puts it well above other netbooks. (Read reviews here.)
|Workstation users rejoice: The Lenovo ThinkPad W700ds delivers two screens in a laptop form factor.|
Ultimate mobile workstation
It isn’t for everyone, but the Lenovo ThinkPad W700ds mobile workstation is one of the most innovative laptops to come along in a while. Designed for professionals in fields, such as digital content creation, oil and gas exploration, CAD, and photography, the W700ds features two screens: a 17-inch primary screen, plus a 10.6-inch secondary screen that slides out from behind the larger LCD for use and then slides back for travel.
It’s ideal for people accustomed to having two monitors while they work—one that shows the project and another that shows the application’s tool palettes and menus. And as you might expect for a high-end workstation, the W700ds can be outfitted with top-end processors and graphics chips, as well as up to 8GB of RAM and nearly a terabyte of hard drive storage. It’s also designed for those of us committed to wireless broadband. Among the options are Wi-Fi, WiMAX, and Ultra Wideband. Prices start at slightly more than $3,000.
Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services. Article adapted from SmallBusinessComputing.com.