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Berkonomics

Ten essential items for mobile digital natives

                An amazing transformation is taking place in the work place.  As the new generation of digital natives enters the work force, management is being pressed to open their networks and their thinking to allow social networking inside the firewall, workers who are more productive and comfortable anywhere but in a cubicle, and management of a virtual workforce.  Mobile workers are quickly overtaking the fixed desk worker in developed countries, quickly catching up with Japan, where this has been the majority behavior for several years.

                To enable these new nomadic workers to be productive, developers have created over 120,000 applications for the iPhone alone, and over 100,000 applications for Facebook users.  These applications enable desktop connectivity from smartphones, netbooks or iPads, list the latest airport delays, provide  GPS traffic and route guidance and so  much more.

                Which brings us to my personal list of the ten most important – essential – things we digital natives need to un-tether from our cubicles and desks and be at least as productive home or anywhere.  You may have a different list, but here is mine…  [Email readers continue here…]

1.           A great smartphone.  More than half of the people on the planet now have cell phones, and the smartphone with Internet and enterprise system access is the fastest growing segment, approaching 25% of all phones sold.   Most any of these models work well for a digital native who can then state with passion, “I have an office in my pocket.” 

2.          Collaboration tools:  GoToMeeting, WebEx, FreeConference.com, Skype, Google Docs, and others:   Some are now available on the smartphone as well as desktop and even built into some newer HD-TV’s.  Skype provides the infrastructure for cost-free video and audio conferencing and long distance dialing with sound quality often exceeding that of normal communication channels. 

3.          Internet access via cellular networks:  If the theme is “un-tethering” from a fixed broadband land line, then a great wireless card is a must.   Variations on the theme include cards that broadcast WIFI signals to a small area, built-in cards in netbooks and tablets and more.

 4.        Wireless desk phone system:  I discovered the power of this one recently when installing the new Plantronics Calista system, allowing me to walk up to 300 feet from my desk with a belt-clipped remote and up to 30 feet from that remote with the included Bluetooth earpiece.  The Calista seamlessly receives calls from my desk phone, my cell phone and my desktop Skype with equal ease as I roam the office environment.  

5.        A follow-me account :  Although many digital natives have cut the cord literally and done away with landlines (21% at latest measure), the rest of us would like to have up to five phones ring simultaneously, and roll over to a single voicemail if we do not answer any of them in a set time.  Vonage, Google Voice and YouMail are services providing this great feature at minimal cost for the freedom it provides. 

6.       A compact all-in-one:  When we are at home with our limited space and resources, a great all-in-one printer, scanner, fax is a necessity.  I prefer a black and white laser unit with a small footprint for low cost pages and quiet operation, delivering quiet inexpensive pages when needed, and color scanning to the computer. I prefer the Brother MFC7840W, but lots are available for under $230.00. 

7.        A netbook or tablet:  I no longer carry a large notebook, but rather a mini-note (or netbook or tablet). All in the name of longer battery life, less space and less weight.   The arrival of the iPad and competing devices add both complexity and simplicity at the same time. I will carry both my netbook and an iPad wherever I travel, combining the book reader and application-friendly iPad with the workhorse netbook for office work and presentations.  

8.        A portable scanner and / or portable printer:  If you haven’t seen or worked with a pencil-thin portable scanner such as PlanOn’s Docupen Xtreme, you haven’t experienced the ability to digitize at will anything you run across in your travels.  Only ½ inch by 9 inches in size, you will forget you have this in your bag or pocket until you need an instant copy of a news article, a document or an invoice. And sometimes, we just have to give in to the fact that the paperless office is not going to be a reality soon, especially when we are away from our desks for more than a few days.  PlanOn produces the ultra-portable Printstik PS905, a mobile printer with a 20 page self-contained roll of paper (or plain paper printing) from a smartphone or computer through Bluetooth or USB.  It weighs only 1.5 pounds and measures 1” by 2” by 11” in size. 

9.         The small resource bag:  All of us need an extra USB memory stick, chargers, cables and even a second battery.  Some of us add a wireless remote for presentations, a laser pointer and a few small screwdrivers.  

10.       The wild card:  Here is your chance to add that tool relevant to your needs. I would split the wild card into two items if I could:  a docking station with keyboard and monitor … and a portable projector, which is not for everyone, but for most of us who make presentations on the road and sometimes on the spot. There is a new generation of tiny projectors hitting the market to allow the mobile worker to share without notice.  For full room size presentations, I carry the slim Casio XJ-S38 XGA projector, only 1.7” high and 8×10” in size, weighing 4 pounds and able to fill a large room with a beautiful picture.   For smaller projections, the Aiptek PJT21X PocketCinema can be carried in your pocket.  New cell phones with digital projectors built-in were shown at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show and will soon be available. 

                So that’s my list of things I cannot do without as I work from anywhere and at any time.  Yes, I understand that any list becomes obsolete before it is published.  You’ll have your own “must have” list.  Whatever our disagreement, let’s celebrate our personal digital empowerment and collective un-tethering from a fixed business desk.  And sure, add your comment with your “indespensible” road warrior or SOHO technology…

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