- Business Software
- Computer Security
- Internet and Online Business
- Managing Technology
- Telecom and Wireless
- Tools on Managing Technology
Tag Archives: Toshiba Corporation
At the CES tradeshow in Las Vegas, several companies announced or released amazing new tablets. For business owners, it might be tough to decide which one is right for your employees. InformationWeek has selected the best of the best. CES Tablet Extravaganza: Motorola, RIM, Toshiba & Asus Stand Out [InformationWeek]
Santa baby, slip an iTouch under the tree, for me Been an awful tough year, Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight. This holiday season, the little somethings that small business owners are asking Santa to slip under the tree include lightweight notebook computers, next-generation smart phones, HD cameras, and more. With the economy in the doldrums, there’s not a whole lot to celebrate this year and not a whole lot of IT money left to celebrate with. But small business owners who’ve managed to squirrel away a little of their annual computing budget to spend on themselves or their employees before Dec. 31 have a sleigh full of electronic devices to choose from. According to a very informal poll of several dozen small business owners, here are some of the most popular items on their holiday wish lists: Little laptops Sallie Goetsch, a podcast producer at The Podcast Asylum in California, wants a UMPC — an ultra-mobile PC — the latest in lightweight computing. Also known as a tablet PC, netbook or subnotebook, the devices run 13” or smaller, weigh just a couple pounds, have touch screens and/or QWERTY keyboards and come with built ins like GPS and Wi-Fi and a variety of options. Goetsch wants something to take to conferences and events and prefers a UMPC over a smart phone. “I never did learn how to type with my thumbs,” she says. “I’m trying to decide which one, the new HP? The EEE?” Joe Pulizzi, owner of Z Squared Media, a Cleveland, Ohio, content marketing firm and founder of the Junta42 content marketing blog network, wants a mini laptop too. Pulizzi has a 17” Toshiba laptop in his home office, but it’s too big for the road. “Sometimes small is better,” he says. Pulizzi has his eyeona Toshiba Portege with a 12.1” display, built-in fingerprint reader, webcam, digital card reader, and 4 USB ports. Smartphones Linda Musgrove, owner of an Aventura, Fla., trade show consulting firm called Trade Show Teacher, already has a smartphone. But that hasn’t stopped her from lusting after the HTC Touch Pro, Sprint’s Windows Mobile 6.1 smartphone with a slide-out QWERTY keypad, touch screen, expandable memory, 3.2 megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth support. The device will do double duty, managing Musgrove’s business and “my crazy family,” she says. Nancy White, owner of Custom Interface, a Bingen, Wash., custom electronics manufacturer, treated herself to an AT&T Tilt smartphone as an early Christmas present. It hasn’t been pure love at first sight — “It takes three screens to get to speed dial” — but she does love the fact that it comes loaded with Microsoft Outlook, “so the interface with my work desktop is fantastic,” she says. Cameras and gadgets When it comes to gadgets, former newspaper photographer Jay Bryant has a soft spot for cameras. This holiday, Bryant, now business development vice president at Live World, a San Jose, Calif., social networking company, has his eye on the Kodak Zi6 Flip Cam in HD. The palm-sized device has a 2.4” screen and weighs 3.8 ounces and has built-in USB port and editing software. “I’m going to try my hand at video blogging,” Bryant says. “And I’m going to start recording some of my presentations to review them afterward to see how I can do better,” Bryant says. Plus, at a suggested retail price of $180, “it’s cheap,” he says. After Andre Preoteasa, IT director at Castle Brands got himself an Apple iPod Touch, he was the most popular guy at the New York City fine spirits distributor. “Everyone in the office is asking to use it. Everybody wants one,” Preoteasa says. “It’s literally a computer in your pocket, and a very posh one.” Reviewers have dubbed the second-generation iPod Touch the iPhone’s baby brother, with many of the same features — music and video player, Safari Web browser, email, iTunes store, etc. — minus the ability to make cell phone calls. Prices run $270 to $400 for models with 8, 16 or 32 GB flash memory. Travis Isaacson, senior director of organizational development at Access Development, a Salt Lake City, affinity marketing business, doesn’t want anything that fancy, just an iPod Classic with 120 GB of memory instead of the old 80 GB model he has now so he can squeeze in more of the business books he downloads from Audible.com. Nov Omana, managing principal at Collective HR Solutions, a San Mateo, Calif. HR industry consultant, doesn’t like it when people sitting next to him at Starbucks or on an airplane peek at his laptop screen. So this holiday his wish list includes a pair of MyVu Shades, eyewear that looks like regular sunglasses but blocks out whatever is showing on a laptop or iPod screen for everyone except the person wearing them. The $199 device, which comes with built-in earbuds, is primarily sold as a way to watch videos in private but Omana thinks it has big potential with business travelers. “The next generation may allow us to just ‘see’ each other in a virtual world or over the net no matter where we are,” he says. John Klebes, business development program manager at Sig Sauer, the Exeter, N.H. gun maker, has his eye on the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen, a $200 digital pen with built in microphone, speaker, display screen and tiny camera. The Smartpen can record notes in written and audio form simultaneously when used with special “digital paper” embedded with microdots. “It sounds like a very useful tool and I wouldn’t turn down one for Christmas,” Klebes says.
Thanks to falling prices, increased selection, and many more applications targeted at small and mid-sized businesses, it might seem like the right time to consider picking up a tablet PC — or several for your staff. For the uninitiated, these small and lightweight handheld computers let you comfortably write on the screen using a stylus pen. Bundled optical character recognition (OCR) software can also transcribe your chicken scratch into text, making it easy to search or insert into documents, presentations, or e-mails. With built-in wireless functionality, such as 802.11 (Wi-Fi), tablet PCs are also online-ready. Microsoft has an entire operating system devoted to these computers — Windows XP Tablet PC. The software giant has also spent considerable marketing dollars to promote OneNote, a tablet PC-centric note-taking and information-management program for Microsoft Office. OneNote allows you to effortlessly record, organize, search, and share digital notes. Computer makers offering more tablet PCs Many laptops available today also offer tablet PC functionality. Aptly named “convertibles,” these computers feature LCD screens that can swivel around and lay flat — so the user can hold it like a clipboard and write instead of type. It’s no wonder many computer manufacturers have jumped onboard, including the likes of Acer, HP, Lenovo, Dell, Gateway, Toshiba, and Fujitsu. It might seem as if the tablet computer was the latest rage. But, truth be told, the tablet PCs are hardly flying off the shelves. So, why aren’t they selling? According to a recent IDC report, the market is relatively tiny. Convertible tablet PC shipments, for example, will reach barely one million units this year and more than four million by 2010, IDC estimates. Compare this to approximately 72.6 million laptop PCs sold during the same period. “Tablets are still a pretty niche market and I don’t see that changing anytime soon,” says Gary Chen, senior analyst for Small and Medium Enterprise IT Infrastructure and Applications at the Yankee Group. “They’re good for certain vertical applications, but for the mainstream I don’t see it ever becoming the primary form factor.” Determine whether you need tablet functionality Other analysts are more optimistic about the tablet PC’s potential in the small and mid-sized business market. Michael Gartenberg, Jupiter Research’s vice president and research director, says that businesses need to assess whether they can utilize the additional mobility and functionality that the tablet PC has to offer. “The technology has matured — in both the hardware and software — but the big question is ‘do you need it?’” Gartenberg says. For many businesses, the answer may be, “Yes.” Gartenberg suggests that IT decision makers at small and mid-sized businesses consider whether staff members in their business have certain requirements that may be appropriate for tablet PC usage. Tablet computers can provide benefits when used in the following scenarios: When employees are in meetings and want to use their computer as a white board to best demonstrate a product or concept by using a diagram or pictorial representation. In mobile environments, such as health care, where workers need to record information while standing or in other situations where a keyboard isn’t appropriate. In businesses that can cut out a data entry step by enabling field workers to use a stylus to take notes or record observations, which can then be ported into a text file with a few clicks. Another selling point of the tablet PC is that there is no longer a considerable difference in quality between tablets and other laptops. “A few years ago, there was a clear sacrifice in quality of screen, battery life, and power,” Gartenberg says. “But now you’re not trading any functionality.” Chen concedes the price for tablet PCs isn’t much of a barrier of entry any longer for a small or mid-sized business. “Cost was initially a big factor,” he says, “and they’ve definitely come down in price.” That said, Chen maintains most users are “pretty happy with a standard laptop and don’t really see a need to be able to write on the screen.” “I just haven’t seen large demand from users for tablet PCs,” he adds. Time will tell whether the additional development of tablet PC technology by computer and software makers gives businesses a reason to switch to the tablet computer.
Integrated flash memory has long been found in portable devices, be it cell phones, personal digital assistants, media players and USB thumb-drives. But you just might find flash storing all your programs and files in your next laptop. In fact, computer manufacturers including the likes of Dell, Sony, Fujitsu, Toshiba, and Samsung have already began shipping mobile PCs with up to 32-gigabytes of built-in NAND flash memory. NAND, one of two types of flash memory, refers to higher capacity storage and faster read/write speeds, over the other type of flash memory, the older NOR architecture. Unlike magnetic rotating hard-disk drives used in most laptops today, computers with “solid state drives” (SSDs) such as those with NAND flash memory, use less power and are faster, too. “Because of the lack of moving parts, ostensibly the benefits they offer are long battery life and they operate faster, too,” explains Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director at Jupiter Research, a New York City-based technology advisory firm. “Think of solid state drives as the memory in your iPod nano, but with larger capacity, which is required to run your computer,” adds Gartenberg. Solid state more durable, quicker James Slattery, product marketing manager for the Flash Products Group at Intel Corporation, says solid state drives are also more resistant to damage. “In the mobile-client market, SSDs offer high durability with increased performance,” Slattery says. “That coupled with lower energy consumption makes this a very interesting proposition.” Other benefits of computers with SSDs as opposed to more traditional memory, such as hard disk drives (HDDs) include the following: faster boot-up times, quieter performance, and more light-weight computers. With all of these advantages over hard disk drives, why aren’t we all using laptops with SSDs? The answer boils down to two “C” words: cost and capacity. Ultra mobile machines still more expensive SSD-based laptops and smaller “ultra-mobile” PCs (UMPCs) are still considerably more expensive than computers with comparable HDDs. While prices are dropping, price for SSDs are roughly $6 to $7 per gigabyte, compared to about $0.20 for traditional HDDs. “Solid state laptops might not be ideal yet for the small-to-midsized space, where companies are sensitive to price,” explains Gartenberg. “There’s also a trade-off with capacity, so most small businesses looking for the most bang for their buck are better off with traditional [hard disk] drives.” After all, many entry-level laptops today include 120GB of hard disk space, while SSDs — commercially — are currently maxed out at 32GB. (Santa Ana, Calif.-based SimpleTech has announced a 64GB SSD and a 256GB enterprise-level drive.) For business users who store large collections of music, photos, and/or videos on their computers, a 30-odd gigabyte drive is simply not enough space, Gartenberg adds. While these SSD machines are a little bit faster than HDDs, the speed difference is not significantly greater. In addition, says Gartenberg, “While they may be more energy efficient, it comes at a steep price.” Intel’s Slattery highlights another potential problem. “A con of SSD in this market is based on the inherent wear-out of the flash in excessive write environments.” Slattery believes SSDs and HDDs will exist together for some time as computer manufacturers wait for prices of SSDs to drop, capacity to improve and kinks to be worked out of the technology.
If your business has any hope of surviving a routine systems failure or even a once-in-a-century catastrophe, it’s time to start thinking seriously about backing up your data. Myriad backup options are available for prices ranging from a one-time expenditure of a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, plus monthly maintenance fees. The complexity and cost of a backup system varies widely, depending on the amount of data to be stored, the frequency with which backups are made, the relative ease with which lost data can be restored and whether old data must be kept separate from new. Small business backup considerations According to data back-up specialist Iron Mountain Digital, small- to medium-sized businesses need to keep several key factors in mind. Which data is absolutely critical to continuing as a viable business? Which data is critical to communicating within the business? And which is operationally important, but perhaps not absolutely critical to the company’s survival? How effectively do the various options mitigate those increasingly critical risks? How fast can data be recovered in the event of a disaster? How much down-time would the business face during the restoration process, and would there be non-compliance fines or litigation costs associated with a failure? What other costs might be involved even in a temporary data loss? While there are a variety of backup options these days for small and mid-size businesses, a company also needs to put in place a regular process to ensure success of its backup strategy. “At the core, everyone focuses on the technology, but that’s the least important aspect of a back-up,” says Steve Lewis, CEO of Teneros, which makes an application continuity device for Microsoft Exchange servers. “Instead, you have to map certain things out: Have I hired the right person with the right skills to do this? Do I have a workable process in place? Am I doing regular test restores? Am I sure we’re backing up the data we need most? Does everyone in the loop know where the backups are stored and what to do with them?” Costs of backup Costs of backup options vary widely. Online backup costs between $2 and $7 per gigabyte per month but hard drive backups can cost anywhere from 50 cents to $2 per gigabyte depending on the size of the drives used and the type of software used to synchronize the backups. But the basic backup costs can be assessed using three key measures: RTO, or recovery time objective, measures the length of time that data would be unavailable following a failure. RPO, or recovery point objective, measures the acceptable amount of data loss between the last good backup and the point of failure. And DLE, or data loss event, looks at the type and scope of various failure scenarios. With the radical drops in hard drive costs over the last few years, small- and medium-sized businesses have been able to implement back-up strategies similar to those used by large enterprises over the last few decades. In fact, so-called ATA disk drives this year became the number one storage technology across all enterprises, according to IDC. In addition, small businesses now routinely have broadband access that they can leverage for online backup options. Types of backup options to consider Magnetic tape: This has long been the most commonly used medium for bulk data storage and backup, as well as archiving. Tape traditionally has offered the cheapest price-to-capacity ratio, particularly when compared with hard discs, but as hard drive density has increased that advantage has begun to disappear. Because tape stores data sequentially, it can take awhile to access specific portions of stored data. But most backup and restore systems simply require continuous reading and writing of data; as a result, newer tape drives can perform such processes even faster than many hard drives. Hard drives: Areal density, the measure of how much data can be squeezed into a given unit of hard disc space, has climbed steadily over the last few decades. It peaked in September 2006 at 421 gigabits per square inch in the laboratory, according to Seagate Technology, and 178 gigabits per square inch in production models, according to Toshiba. Industry consultant TrendFocus expects to see 500 gigabits per square inch in production units within the next three to five years, meaning we could see terabyte drives around that time. This means that businesses, particularly those built around less data-intensive systems, can squeeze more backup data onto fewer drives, although tape remains cheaper per gigabyte stored. Online backup: Still relatively new, online backup services take advantage of the ubiquitous broadband Internet connections found in nearly all modern computers. A key advantage to online backup is that the data is stored off-site, protecting it from any local hazards. It also can synchronize new data with old, reducing the amount of information that needs to flow through the online connection. But even high-speed connections back up data more slowly than local storage devices can, causing problems for data-intensive businesses. Optical storage: CD and DVD burners can be used to backup data quite cheaply. But there are a number of disadvantages: The process cannot be easily automated, it is labor-intensive, all data is copied regardless of whether it has changed since it was last backed up and the process of burning backup data to new discs can be very slow. Flash memory: Also called solid-state storage, flash memory devices include portable devices known as “thumb drives” or “USB drives,” as well as memory cards such as the CompactFlash and SD cards found in digital cameras. Expensive on a per-gigabyte basis, flash memory devices do have the advantage of moving easily between computers. Floppy discs: Remember these? For personal computing’s first couple of decades, floppies were the only practical means for backing up data. Now few modern PCs even have a floppy drive capable of handling these limited storage capacity discs.
Nothing is worse for a business leader than to deliver a presentation that uses the same, tired techniques the audience has seen a hundred times, making their eyelids droop. In a recent online poll of 382 business managers, some 71 percent of respondents said that they have fallen asleep or been sleepy during an “uninteresting” presentation, according to a survey by Infommersion Inc. a developer of data visualization software. Some 43 percent of respondents have caught other people dozing. Here are some new ways in which manufacturers of presentation hardware have spiced up the equipment to make presentations more effective: Targus Wireless Trackball Mouse/ Laser Pointer/ Multimedia/ Presentation Control A mouse that sports 2.4 GHz wireless technology, a wireless ‘presenter’ that can be used at a distance of up to 50 feet. What’s cool: Device allows switching between applications, can launch the net or access e-mail. $69 DPG-2000W Wireless Gateway Wireless Presentation Gateway that connects via a standard VGA cable to virtually any projector or monitor. The DPG-2000W uses 802.11g technology for presentations on monitors or onscreen via projector. Also helps share presentations, applications, or images in a group setting. What’s cool: Like having your own wireless network during your presentation. $249 Viewsonic PJ400 LCD Projecto For professional presentations or home theater use, weighs 4.8 pounds. Has SVGA 800×600 resolution and 1,600 lumens. What’s cool: Offers advanced video features, progressive scan and 3:2 pull down as well as multiple inputs and HDTV support. $699 PLUS U2-813 DLP Projector Supports 1024 x 768 XGA resolution. Wireless Remote Included, weighs 5.6 pounds. Upgraded brightness of 1300 lumens, 800:1 contrast ratio, built-in software. Digital zoom, wireless remote control with eight on-screen pointers. What’s cool: Can also control your PC and has a built-in laser pointer. $799 Toshiba TDP-S25U Projector A DLP projector with Max resolution of 800 x 600. 1800 ANSI lumens, supports all analog video formats: PAL, NTSC, SECAM, also DV input of DTV or HDTV. What’s cool: Image size is 2.5 ft by 25 ft. and weighs a mere 6.6 pounds. $849 Canon RE-455X Video Visualizer Not your average ‘overhead projector.’ Combines image quality with the versatility displaying dox, media, and 3-D objects. With XGA resolution, a 12X zoom lens, twin fluorescent lamps. XGA (1,024 x 768 pixels) Output, 12X Zoom, Auto-Focus, Still Image. What’s cool: Capable of switching between the RGB input from your computer and the image from the unit. $1249 NEC MultiSync LCD 3210 Portable Screen Presentation display A 32″ screen in with a 1360 x 768 resolution supports PAL/SECAM/NTSC, S-Video and HDTV; Long cable compensation prevents image quality from dispersing, supports video walls with up to twenty displays. What’s cool: One-click-configuration of all business displays. $ 1,615 PANASONIC PT-AE900U 1100 ANSI Lumens Widescreen HD Home Cinema Projector. A high-definition home theater projector that produces film-like images with a 5500:1 contrast ratio. What’s cool: Can display HD pix up to 14.5-feet wide. $2,128 Samsung SyncMaster 400P The SyncMaster 400P presentation display is a 40 inch analog/digital LCD display that offers a 800: 1 contrast ratio, 1366 x 768 resolution, ‘Xtrawide’ 170°/170° viewing angle. What’s cool: If the presentation doesn’t work in public, this makes it worth bringing home. $2,779
Beyond budget, it’s usually the biggest decision you’ll need to make when buying a personal digital assistant for your business: should you use the Palm operating system or the Windows-based Pocket PC technology? “While they’re similar devices to a degree these days, it boils down to what you want out of a PDA and how easily it’ll plug into business needs,” says analyst Michael Gartenberg, of New York-based Jupiter Research. “On one hand, Pocket PC is very compatible with [Microsoft] Outlook and Exchange, but the Palm OS tends to be simpler and more user-friendly.” Before deciding which PDA system to deploy at your company, another factor to consider is “what the third-party application support is for each platform and how it relates to your business,” says Bob O’Donnell, IDC’s Program VP for Clients and Displays. This common operating system debate has grown a bit more complicated for a few reasons. Palm now gives its customers the choice of operating system for their signature device — the Treo. Microsoft, which now refers to its software as Windows Mobile, offers two versions: one for Pocket PC-based PDAs with a touch-screen interface and another for button-based smartphones, such as the Motorola Q. It doesn’t need to be confusing, however, if you consider both the Palm and Pocket PC each has its share of pros and cons. The following provides a brief look at what these are for both PDA types: Why buy a Palm OS device? With ten years of experience under its belt, not only has Palm created a time-tested operating system, but along with this comes a dedicated community of developers. In fact, those who use one of the many Palm OS-based PDAs can choose from more than 28,000 downloadable programs for their handheld device. And many prefer the Palm for its clean and simple (and thus intuitive) icon-based interface. “Palm has a legacy of applications available for it, and for many users, the graffiti interface is an easy way for them to enter data,” says O’Donnell. Palm OS-based digital assistants are also ideal for those businesses on a tight budget since you can pick up one, such as the palm Z22, for less than $100. If you want more features, consider the Palm TE2 ($199) with Bluetooth and an expandable SecureDigital (SD) memory slot. The Palm TX ($299) offers both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. For $399, the Palm LifeDrive includes a 4GB hard drive, integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Finally, the Palm Treo 650 or 700, which is also a cell phone, can be found for $199 to $499, depending on the carrier and length of commitment. You can tell which operating system is used by the product name: the Palm Treo 700p uses the Palm OS, while the 700w uses the — you guessed it — Windows Mobile v.5.0 platform. Why buy a Pocket PC device? Pocket PC-based products are ideal for business for several reasons. Windows Mobile 5.0 devices communicate directly with Microsoft Exchange Server and Small Business Server, so businesses can use Outlook Mobile — without requiring the management of an additional e-mail server and related costs (thus saving money and time). Plus, what this means for Pocket PCs with phone functionality, is BlackBerry-like “push e-mail,” so messages are sent to the portable device as soon as they’re received instead of having to log onto the Net to “pull” them down. As with other Windows Mobile-based devices, this push e-mail solution enables compatible devices to connect directly with Microsoft Exchange Server and Small Business Server. Microsoft’s Direct Push Technology also gives customers up-to-the-minute access to all of their Outlook information, such as e-mail, calendar, contacts and tasks. “For the same reason the BlackBerry is so successful, people want access to e-mail at any time, without booting their PC,” says ‘O’Donnell. “It’s a huge benefit for the business.” Pocket PCs sync well with desktop PCs running Windows XP. The look and feel of the Windows-based PDA will be familiar to PC Windows users. For the most part, Pocket PCs are also more powerful than their Palm OS counterparts. This extra computing power is perfect for multimedia, such as digital audio, photos, video and Web surfing via Pocket Internet Explorer. “While the Palm OS tends to be simpler and easier to use, Pocket PCs offer more functionality, and as a result, they’re more capable machines,” says Gartenberg. While generally pricier than Palm OS-based PDAs (Pocket PCs start at about $200 for an entry-level model), Pocket PC machines come from more vendors, namely: Asus, Casio, Dell, Garmin, Gateway, HP, Toshiba, and ViewSonic.
2003 Tech Buying Guide Market Report Businesses are sinking their thinning tech dollars into desktop and PC replacement first and foremost. Laptops are enjoying particularly brisk sales, with the number of units shipped during the third quarter of 2002 increasing 18% over third-quarter 2001 figures, according to market researchers at International Data Corp. Prices continue to fall. A well-equipped, businessworthy laptop such as the Toshiba shown below has a street price of about $1,500 — a 50% reduction from three years ago. Despite this favorable turn of events, you need to account for this technology expense. While PCs which meet certain IRS guidelines can be written off in one year, a computer is generally depreciated over a five-year period — longer than its likely lifespan, especially when discussing laptops. When allocating dollars, figure on a three- to four-year lifespan, says Keith Waryas, an IDC research manager. He says this is more typical for small- to medium-size businesses. For business users, the principal dilemma remains portability versus functionality: “There are tradeoffs. Ultraportables [typically 4 pounds or less] are superlightweight, but don’t have any drives,” says Waryas. STAY THE COURSE Toshiba’s Satellite 2435-S255 [$1,700 base price; shop toshiba.com] comes with a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 CPU, 15-inch display, and combo DVD/CD drive — this provides your shop with more than adequate insurance against obsolescence for at least two years. MORE SEXY THAN SMART? Sure, the Apple PowerBook G4′s [$3,299 and up; www.apple.com] 17-inch display is the largest in notebook history, and its keyboard is backlit. But forget using it comfortably in coach. Think of it as a superior desktop PC alternative for the casual traveler. 51% of Inc.com poll respondents figure they’ll keep their laptops “up to two years.”*
Gear Oops, we mean “personal productivity device” story. Here’s the latest crop of tiny tech tools that are generating some buzz. Look over the latest crop of electronic wanna-haves and you might recall the classic Saturday Night Live pseudo-commercial plugging a new all-purpose product called Shimmer: it’s “a floor wax and a dessert topping!” Lately, the hottest gadgets have doubled as something else. It’s a handheld computer and a digital camera! It’s a cell phone and a Web browser! (And it’ll fit in your pocket, too!) Cool? Very. Convenient? Unquestionably. Superior? Well … In general, do-it-all devices have marginal track records. Take a hyped hybrid from a couple of years back: the combination desktop fax/scanner/printer/copier. Manufacturers billed the multifunction machine as the perfect space saver for small businesses. Instead buyers often got a quick refresher course in Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will. Not to mention the combo-device corollary: When one thing goes wrong, so does everything else. So it’s easy to view current Shimmer successors with a healthy skepticism. Still, they’re undeniably sexy, with none more seductive than the proposed Origami. Unveiled at trade shows last fall, the paperback-book-sized prototype contains a personal digital assistant (PDA), a digital camera, a digital camcorder, an MP3 audio player, an Internet-access device, and E-mail and videoconferencing terminals. The aptly named Origami, which folds and pivots for various functions, weighs a mere 10 ounces. But don’t look for it just yet. Manufacturer National Semiconductor Corp. isn’t saying exactly when (or whether) Origami will hit the shelves or what you’ll pay when it does. Already available: Handspring’s long-awaited Treo, a device that functions as a PDA, a cell phone, and a wireless-messaging and Web-access unit. Treo’s standard model, which debuted in February, retails for $399. Handspring expects to release a $599 color-screen version later this year. Both run on the Palm operating system; buyers can choose either the standard Graffiti handwriting-recognition system or a tiny thumb keyboard. On all models, the device’s cover flips up to transform it into a phone. Despite its triple capability, the 5.2-ounce Treo feels lighter and slimmer than most single-function handheld gadgets. Of course, you’re still looking at a microscopic gray-scale screen. Treo’s debut models lack analog phone and voice-activated-dialing capability. And it’s unclear if even true technophiles will want to phone home by holding a handheld computer up to their ears. Continuing the smaller-is-better theme is Fujitsu PC Corp.’s LifeBook P Series notebook computer. Fujitsu, among the computer makers racing to build the lightest laptop, pared its latest contender to 2.8 pounds stripped (3.4 pounds with its optical drive) and just over 1.5 inches thick. Despite its skinny profile, the $1,500 LifeBook P, which debuted in December, comes with a built-in slot for either a CD-RW/DVD drive or an extra battery that will power the machine for up to 14.5 hours. There are, of course, tradeoffs. The LifeBook’s keyboard is about 10% smaller than a full-size keyboard, a serious drawback for the ham-handed. Touch typists will hate the odd shift-key location (above the slash, rather than next to it). Finally, there’s the little 10.6-inch screen, a size and shape widely seen in Japan but probably disconcerting, at least initially, for American users. Most likely to grab headlines: the Tablet PC. The device, about the size of a legal pad, recognizes handwriting scribbled on its surface and is a fully functional PC with a touch screen. Tablets are flat, sleek (2 inches thick), and lightweight (less than 3 pounds). Several computer makers — including Acer, Compaq, Fujitsu PC, and Toshiba — will build the Microsoft-powered machines. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, who says he’s already using an electronic slate, predicts that by 2006 it “will be the most popular form of PC sold in America.” Others aren’t so sure. Does the world really need yet another handheld computer? And writing-recognition technology in general still stinks. Ask any handheld user who’s scribbled “Meet with Fred Emerson” and ended up with “Mzte wth fmd-at emermhon.” But stay tuned: Gates expects sales to start late this year. Anne Stuart is a senior writer at Inc. The Inc Life How to Host the Perfect Weekend Buy Now, Pay Later The Quiet CEO Toy Story Please E-mail your comments to email@example.com.