If your business dealings are still tied to your desk, you've got problems.
Your competitors -- specifically, their top management -- can zap updates via wireless devices, tap into the network from the road or a client's headquarters, make plane reservations from a cab and do business from nearly anywhere in the world.
Gadgets, especially hand-held ones such as wireless Web cell phones and PDAs (i.e. Palm Pilots), have made executives into road warriors in ways that never had been imagined. But, while interconnectivity brings us closer to our businesses, it also further blurs the line between work and personal life.
Such is the price of productivity, which, not surprisingly, is up. Here are some of the tools being used to make businesses more efficient -- from the most basic to the wildly esoteric.
PDAs such as Palm Pilots have put the power of the PC in, no pun intended, the palm of your hand. They provide the ability to organize meetings and contacts; draft letters, memos and spreadsheets; send and receive e-mail; tote entire documents around and print them out at the nearest printer via an infrared beam; and trade information instantly with a fellow PDA user.
One of the most recent applications incorporated into PDAs is Web clipping. It eschews previously high costs for surfing the Internet and instead allows users to customize their searches offline.
The PDA then "clips" only the information necessary from the Internet. The technology also allows users to link into an office PC network from a remote location, search the hard drive and retrieve files.
Wireless Web phones
When the wireless Web was introduced, it was little more than a limited set of headlines and stock quotes, combined with a bare-bones e-mail application. That's all changed. Today, wireless Web phones are capable of many of the same applications as PDAs, but on a more limited scale due to their basic operating system and text-only capabilities.
But, as wireless phone companies such as Sprint, Nextel and Alltel ink more deals with Web-based businesses to deliver pared down text versions of their content to users' phones, the offerings will grow exponentially. And then, the primary benefit of Web phones -- cost -- will most likely lead the way in the wireless revolution.
In October, Palm and auto supplier Delphi Automotive announced a partnership designed to deliver wireless Internet services on the road -- well beyond what's currently available. The new venture -- MobileAria -- will manufacture devices that fit into a vehicle's cup holder and deliver everything from e-mail and news updates to e-commerce and digital entertainment.
There's one thing it won't deliver, however -- better auto insurance rates for people whose attention is focused on the Net instead of on the road.
Just for fun
Japanese telecom research firm NTT DoCoMo's Media Computing Lab is working on a wristband phone that would make even Dick Tracy envious. It's a wearable wireless phone that consists only of a wristband.
The wristband contains a tiny microphone and a device that translates audio signals into vibrations. Users listen to incoming calls by putting a finger in their ear.
The caller's voice is converted to vibrations, which travel through the hand and finger to the ear canal. The user is able to communicate back by using the microphone embedded in the wristband.
Called the "Whisper," DoCoMo hopes to have the product on the market by 2005. By then, the idea may not seem so futuristic. Dustin Klein (email@example.com) is editor of SBN.