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Out-of-Towners

Say It With Wireless

When we asked entrepreneurs which gadgets they couldn't live without, they picked cell phones every time. But there's more than one way to go wireless. Though still limited in scope, the wireless Web is starting to make more business sense. Brooks accesses the Web through his Sprint service. He remembers getting lost on a recent trip to New York City. "After asking someone on the street for directions, they sent me 20 blocks out of the way," he remembers. "So I went back to my trusted wireless service and got the information I needed."

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AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and other major carriers all offer some version of the wireless Net. The most useful features are directions, restaurant guides, flight information, news and limited e-mail access. Like Brooks, you may find it indispensable. Or, like Mortonson, you may find that surfing around on a tiny screen isn't worth the hassle.

If just a cell phone isn't enough for you, check out the newer wireless computer services. Sierra Wireless offers go-anywhere modems for laptops and PDAs. The convenience is undeniable, but prices can be high. An AirCard 300 wireless WAN card and GoAmerica service package, for example, costs up to $479 for the hardware and $59.95 per month for the connection. And be careful of roaming charges. Visit Sierra's Web site to view its entire line of mobile solutions.

Weighty Issues
Is your ultralight laptop still an ultra pain to haul around? More and more entrepreneurs are shedding bulky computer systems in favor of PDAs. Brooks calls his Kyocera QCP6035 Smartphone a "great road warrior tool." The cell phone/Palm OS PDA combination handles most of the basic laptop duties. "Where I used to bring the laptop just for the purpose of checking e-mail, I don't need to do that anymore because I have that ability on the Smartphone," he says.

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Make sure to assess your needs before you go. If you'll be giving presentations, or if you truly need all your office desktop capabilities, you can't top a laptop. Ultralights can ease the load, but beware of hauling external disk drives and peripherals. You just might prefer a laptop case with wheels to get you through the airport and down the hotel hallway. A Palm or Windows CE device can handle your calendar, contacts, task lists and database and writing applications to a degree. Make it easier on yourself with a fold-up keyboard like the $89 Palm Portable Keyboard or wireless Internet access with the $499 Compaq iPaq H3635 and its $100 optional modem.

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This article was originally published in the November 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Out-of-Towners.

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