Business tech is advancing rapidly, and a select group of products is leading the charge. So what's new? Cloud-based office suites and file sharing, touchscreen tablets, and videoconferencing are at the forefront of today's workplace transformation. If you're looking for a quick productivity boost, consider the offerings described below.
Watch out, Microsoft Office. Google Apps, the search giant's cloud-based productivity suite, is working its way into the business world. In addition, tools such as Google Voice enable small businesses to look bigger by giving them a single phone number that reaches multiple phones. New, affordable versions of the apps for government offices, as well as improved protection against phishing and malware threats, make Google Apps a worthy challenger to Microsoft's venerable suite.
This popular share-and-sync online service is ridiculously easy to use. Simply place your files in a Dropbox folder on one computer, and they're uploaded to a secure server. You can access your files from other Dropbox-equipped computers and mobile devices, too. The first 2GB of storage is free, and you can buy more.
Apple's innovative tablet has turned out to be more than just a big iPod Touch. The iPad is entering the business world as more enterprises recognize its potential. Thousands of apps and an ergonomic touch interface make the iPad a winner. Even better, a smaller, camera-equipped model may arrive soon.
Data Robotics' series of easy-to-manage network storage devices are ideal for small and home offices, and they're a hit with Mac users. A Drobo box is brain-dead simple to set up, and sharing files across a network is just as straightforward. Drobo's SOHO sensibilities make it unique in offering storage for nontechies.
Windows Vista couldn't persuade businesses to upgrade from Windows XP, but Windows 7 is having far greater success. True, Microsoft is forcing the issue by winding down its XP support, but Windows 7 does offer security advantages for enterprises. The folks in Redmond got it right this time. Hurrah!
Samsung Galaxy Tab
Samsung's sleek slate has blockbuster potential in the business world. The Galaxy Tab, with its 7-inch touchscreen, fills a void between smartphones and iPad-size tablets. Its starter OS, Android 2.2, really isn't tablet-friendly, though; to shine brightly, the Galaxy Tab will need the upcoming Android 3.0.
Apple iPhone 4
The latest iPhone may not be perfect, but its clever innovations earned it a spot on our list of the top 10 phones nonetheless. Its front-facing camera and FaceTime video-chat app, for instance, could revolutionize corporate meetings, particularly if FaceTime beats the odds and becomes an industry standard. Business travel, we will miss you.
HP Photosmart eStation
The detachable 7-inch Android tablet that comes with HP's newest printer is grabbing headlines, but the real story is the printer itself: The Photosmart eStation has business-friendly benefits such as wireless connectivity and two-sided printing. The tablet lets you control the eStation remotely and print Web pages without a PC.
Microsoft Office 2010
Microsoft's desktop office suite keeps getting better, although its Web-based counterpart is junk. Office 2010 offers numerous productivity perks, including a customizable "Ribbon" interface, better built-in graphics tools, and improved malware protection. And PowerPoint's new Broadcast feature is great for displaying slideshows on remote clients' computers.
iGo Portable Projector
iGo's pocket-size projector is designed for Cisco's Flip video cameras, but it will connect to laptops and smartphones, too. The $350 iGo projects videos at screen sizes up to 70 inches diagonally. It comes with an HDMI cable (mini-to-mini), and holds a MicroSD memory card (up to 32GB). The iGo ships in October.