» Archive for December, 2005

A Wake-up Call for Collaboration

Friday, December 30th, 2005 by David Goldes

It only lasted 60 hours, but that was enough.  “It” was New York City’s transit strike, which City Comptroller William Thompson Jr. estimated to cost the city’s economy ca. $1 billion.

Retail businesses were perhaps hardest hit, losing perhaps half a billion dollars right before the Christmas holiday.  Businesses which relied on perishable goods or prompt deliveries also suffered.

But many knowledge workers stayed home and, to the extent possible, used e-mail and other collaboration tools to conduct business.  But if companies believe such an impromptu approach will work for them in the event of a longer crisis, such as a pandemic influenza, they are wrong.  The transit strike should serve as a wake-up call, not only for New Yorkers but for everyone.  Managers need to ask themselves if they could continue operating in this fashion (i.e. transit strike mode) for three months or longer.

When Basex analysts informally polled executives in the New York area, the answer was a resounding “NO!”

As our holiday gift to you, we are making our report, Strengthening Corporate Pandemic Preparedness and Response, available at no charge. Simply click here to download your complimentary copy.

This column appears in the last issue of Basex:TechWatch for 2005.  The new year, 2006, is looming and throughout the world, knowledge workers are making their New Year’s resolutions.  On behalf of Jonathan Spira and the entire Basex family, let me take this opportunity to wish you, dear reader, a happy and prosperous New Year, or as Jonathan would say, Prosit Neujahr!  Finally, for a New Year’s treat, join the Vienna Philharmonic for their New Year’s Day concert from the majestic Musikverein in Vienna with host Walter Cronkite, broadcast to millions of viewers around the world, and viewable in the United States on PBS Saturday afternoon.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

2005 Products of the Year

Friday, December 30th, 2005 by Jonathan Spira

Technology isn’t just limited to the tools we, as knowledge workers, use in our daily lives.  There are many useful, practical implementations of technology in tools we use both for business and pleasure.  We at Basex would like to recognize what we see as the best of the best.  Our findings are based on extensive testing of these devices over the past few months

Without further ado, we present to you our Products of the Year:

Apple iPod 30GB
Sony Ericsson S710a
BMW 330xi
Sony Digital Still Camera DSC-V3
Palm TX

The iPod has evolved from a cool way to listen to music to a portable music library that connects to car stereos and portable speakers and can even snap into smart home audio systems that pipe music throughout the house.  Capable of holding up to 15,000 songs (the 60GB model) and up to 25,000 photos, the new iPod adds a 6.35 cm display and the capability of storing and playing 150 hours of video.  Miraculously, as Apple keeps increasing the capacity, it simultaneously makes the units thinner.

For the Road Warrior, iTunes manages podcast subscriptions, keeping the iPod up to date with the latest content.  The only question is, what will Apple do next?

This is the best designed mobile I’ve seen and used in many years.  Sony Ericsson did everything right here.  All of the navigation controls are on the same part of the device as the screen, so you can do almost everything (including answer a call, read mail and text messages, play games, read news) without opening it up.  Best of all, it has a 1.3 megapixel camera with high quality optics, and it actually feels like a camera when taking a photo.

The S710a has a brilliant 5.84 cm, 240×320 pixel TFT display with 262,144 colors, 32 Mbytes of internal memory and comes with a 32 Mbyte Memory Stick Duo.  It weighs only 137 g.

Little touches also count.  When the user opens the mobile, the side mounted volume control buttons reverse so the one on top still increases the volume.  A built-in speakerphone is handy and its use is almost imperceptible to the called party.  Of course Bluetooth is standard and the S710a performed very well in our tests connected via Bluetooth as a modem to several Palm devices and ThinkPads.  It also found a GSM signal in places we thought were previously impenetrable so it will keep the Road Warrior connected even when the signal is somewhat dodgy.

Most importantly, it is very comfortable to hold as a phone.  I find myself using the S710a more and more as a replacement for my corded phone.

BMW invented the sports sedan in the 1960s with the 2002.  The new 3 Series, the fifth generation of this range, features a new 3.0-liter DOHC 24-valve aluminum-and-magnesium inline-six with 255 horsepower and a choice of manual or automatic 6-speed transmissions.  For the Road Warrior, the car features an impressive array of useful technology.  IDrive, much maligned in the automotive press, is actually a very clever, intuitive, and easy-to-use interface to control everything from satellite navigation to entertainment.  Hundreds of voice commands make it possible for the windshield warrior to keep his eyes on the road.  Sirius satellite radio keeps the knowledge worker informed with CNN and BBC news, as well as over 100 other channels.

BMW was the first auto manufacturer to include factory Bluetooth connectivity in its cars, and the new 330xi makes it easy to manage one’s mobile communications; voice recognition commands make it possible to directly access your mobile’s directory using a single command (“Dial Bob Jones”).  BMW’s intelligent xDrive all-wheel drive system has brought new meaning to all-road traction while maintaining the legendary handling and agility of the 3er.  On smooth, dry roads, the 330xi has the feel of its rear-wheel drive equivalent (330i).  But in wet and slippery conditions, xDrive instantaneously sends more torque to the front axle to enhance stability; if one wheel spins faster than the other, the brakes can be automatically applied individually as needed.  At any given moment, xDrive is shifting drive power, reducing over- or understeer, enhancing agility, and providing the best possible traction.  Simply put, after driving the car more than 2400 km on the Autobahn and over twisting mountain passes, the car drives as if it were on rails.

I’ve long been looking for a digital camera that feels just right.  Something not too big and not too small.  The Sony DSC-V3 more than meets the requirements.  With a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar lens with 4x optical zoom, a black rangefinder-style body, a 6.35 cm LCD monitor, RAW image format and a Compact Flash slot in addition to Memory Stick Pro, the DSC-V3 is the perfect prosumer digital camera.

Sony’s Real Imaging Processor circuitry provides a fast start-up time and shot-to-shot times of ca. one second, with increased speed of features such as auto focus and auto exposure.  We tested the camera in lighting conditions ranging from moonlight to incandescent, and it came back with perfectly exposed pictures each time.  High-speed burst (SDRAM) mode allows for up to eight full-resolution images at more than two frames per second.  Full manual exposure controls are provided in addition to aperture priority and shutter priority modes.  A hot shoe communicates exposure information to an accessory flash and the Hologram AF Illuminator projects a laser pattern on the subject to create contrast for precise focus, even in low or no light conditions.

The Palm TX is the Palm I’ve been waiting for, finally offering knowledge workers built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in the same handheld.  Connecting to the Web with the TX is fast and quite simple.  Most pages loaded fairly quickly (for a PDA) thanks to the 312 MHz Bulverde Intel processor.  For knowledge work, the Palm TX, which is running on Palm OS 5.4, includes DataViz’s Documents To Go 7 and VersaMail 3.1.  Documents To Go allows users to view and edit native Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.  The TX includes 128 Mbytes of non-volatile flash memory, 100 Mbytes of which is user accessible.  The expansion slot accepts up to 2 Gbyte SD cards.

The TX weighs 149 g and is ca. 121 x 78 x 15 mm.  The 10.16 cm 320 x 480 pixel 65,000 color screen provides sharp and crisp text and images.  We keep the screen in landscape mode almost all the time.  The TX has the new-style toolbar from the T5 and one-touch access to Home/Favorites, Calendar, Contacts, and Web.  All in all, an excellent addition to the road warrior’s toolkit.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.