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Offices now going on the road

Our series on the virtual office continues with a look at the mobility technology is offering. Julie-anne Sprague reports.

LOWER prices, smaller machines and greater network capabilities make it possible for companies to utilise mobile technology to en-hance business efficiencies.

IBM brand manager personal computing division Tim Gunnell said the transition from a moveable computer to the current lightweight notebook products enabled realistic portability.

“About 14 years ago I saw the first mobile technology, it was a mobile unit. We called it a luggable; it was a computer packaged in a way that you could move it. It was about 12 kilograms,” he said.

Years passed and developments made the machines weigh less, about three or 4kg yet kept keyboard size and the screen size intact.

“The big thing we all missed as vendors was if you put it in your bag or briefcase it takes up real estate. We were designing notebooks that were smaller than A4 but they were fat. So we needed to make them thinner,” Mr Gunnell said.

“In 1996 or so we came out with a product, ThinkPad 560 that was the same dimensions of a typical notepad but much thinner.”

He said that because a large proportion of people exchanged data via the Internet it was possible to exclude disk drives and therefore produce lighter machines.

ComputerCorp M-Commerce manager Glynis Marley said a larger range of products, as well as the ability for quick data exchange, in an out-of-office work environment was helping employers to gain greater efficiencies.

“The product set is growing and the network capability now allows people to access data easily,” she said.

“In the old days if you were outside the office you would have to use a data card or mobile phone to access data and it was terribly slow – at about nine bits a second.

“Now it can be done numerous ways and be done at 30 to 40 bits per second. It is a quicker exchange of data.”

Ms Marley said that employers whose staff were utilising mobile technologies were enjoying speedier business processes.

“There is software that can be loaded on to them (mobile technology such as Personal Digital Assistants) that allows people to connect in real time,” she said.

“In one company I have consulted to it took the director six to eight weeks to get the information from all of his sales people. Now he can get it that day.

“The sales staff can input in-formation into their hand held devices and send information that gets to the office straight away.”

Portacom managing director Neil Hancock said better machine capabilities as well as better prices were partly responsible for market growth.

“It has never been better. Whatever you buy is already cheap. Today, even the lowest level computer is good enough for some people,” he said.

“The [Federal] Government has instigated a scheme where you can salary sacrifice a notebook once a year.”

Mr Gunnell agreed that prices were now within most consumers’ reach.

“Someone that saw a notebook years and years ago for $10,000, they can now get that for under $2,000,” he said.

Instant messages are another area of mobile communications growth according to Commtech Wireless marketing manager Chris Sylvester.

“Workers can send emails from their phones using the Short Messaging Service,” he said.

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