Bill Gates and Joseph Schumpeter were right on target--arming entrepreneurs with innovative technology is the shortest route between anywhere and prosperity.
A Harvard economist, Schumpeter preached entrepreneurship when America was an over-regulated group of corporate fiefdoms, passed on about the time Microsoft's chairman was born and never saw his theories become validated by the entrepreneurial boom of the '80s and '90s. Gates, who was central to that effort, assures us that the recent business slump is just a breather, and that even greater productivity will flow from office product investments over the next decade.
Blatant self-interest on Gates' part? Sure. But when he's right, he's right. The recession can be traced directly to the slowdown in capital spending after interest rates rocketed sky-high. Now it's about time to start shopping again--but cautiously. Technology enthusiasts like Gates are good at forecasting visions of improved efficiency, reduced costs and more dollars to the bottom line. But it's you who has the power to make them come true.
Between the promise and the bottom line stand installation and implementation issues, employee training and support costs, bugs and other product shortcomings. Sometimes, the real benefits aren't scheduled for delivery until the third or fourth version of a product comes out. It all works out eventually, but they don't call it the bleeding edge for nothing.
To make your technology investments generate more savings than costs is tricky. Only you know how a product will suit your company's needs. But here are some buying guidelines for the product categories that are changing the most this year.