Tech Essentials for the Business Traveler

Location, Location, Location

If you're the sort of person who hates stopping to ask for directions, then you're in luck: More handhelds are adding support for Global Positioning Satellite systems.

Todd Kort, principal analyst for mobile technology at Gartner Inc., an IT research firm in Dripping Springs, Texas, estimates about 1 million PDAs that integrate GPS features will be sold this year worldwide. Although interest in these products is strongest in Europe, U.S. buyers now have a broadening array of choices, including Hewlett-Packard's planned iPAQ hw6500 Mobile Messenger--it will be the first handheld to include GPS support.

At a price point of $750 in the U.S. market (all prices street), the Garmin iQue m5 is a handheld that makes GPS its priority, Kort says. What makes the product unique is a 3.5-inch diagonal display that can be used in either a landscape or portrait orientation. Other GPS-enabled devices specifically optimized for mobile navigation purposes include the $599 Mio168RS from Mio Technology and the $499 Navman PiN 570 Pocket PC.

Kort says buyers opting for integrated GPS should expect to make some trade-offs. "What you want with a good GPS device is a large display, high resolution, and an interface that isn't cluttered," he says. Another thing you'll need: long battery life.

The problem is that these goals are at odds with the overriding design theme for many handhelds: to become smaller and more compact. "At the end of the day, GPS is not something that is a killer application for handhelds," says David Linsalata, analyst
for mobile devices with research firm IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts.

That's why, aside from the integrated GPS handhelds mentioned above, you can expect to see an increasing number of peripherals that serve as adjuncts to your PDA or notebook, most often via a Bluetooth connection.

One example is Socket Communications' GPS Nav Kit, a receiver that includes personal routing software. The kit, priced at just under $350, hooks into your handheld or your notebook and works for up to 9 hours. Another option is Gate5's Smart2Go Mobile Navigator, due this fall in the U.S., which also costs roughly $350. The 3-inch receiver links to smartphones including the Palm Treo, Pocket PC and Windows Smartphone models, as well as Nokia offerings.

Perfect Setup
Since the lines between your office, home and the road are blurring, entrepreneurs need to make the most of mobile devices. We asked Will Luden, CEO of IT service provider Info Partners , and Keith Costas, the company's director of engineering, for a few recommendations.

Costas suggests Palm Treos or BlackBerries for highly mobile entrepreneurs. For those who are occasionally mobile, he suggests laptops like Dell (for general purposes), IBM (for more rugged applications), and Sony (for ultraportable needs). For your home office, a smartphone-type device is basically self-contained if you have a server like the BlackBerry Server back at the office. Broadband internet is a must. And laptop users should consider buying a $200 docking station. "With screen sizes these days, you don't need the full docking station with the external monitor," says Costas.

A little Wi-Fi goes a long way. "Now there's virtually no downside to wireless," says Luden. A home Wi-Fi network lets you work anywhere in your house, share an internet connection with your family and connect home electronics and smart appliances with your computer. A VPN or terminal services setup can keep you in secure communication with your office from home or from a hot spot while traveling. So when making your next technology purchase, consider how you can get the most out of it, wherever you are.--Amanda C. Kooser

More Power to You
All the mobile technology in the world is useless without the juice to power it. Long battery life is something business travelers seek out to help tide them over through those many hours away from power outlets. New types of battery technologies are teasing us from the horizon. Fuel cells hold a lot of promise, but it will be awhile before they actually become available for laptops and other mobile devices. In the meantime, there are some battery add-ons you can take advantage of to maximize your working time on the go. In notebooks, Intel's Centrino mobile processors can help extend battery life. APC's $249 Universal Notebook Battery is handy to have around for those long flights or as an emergency backup. For smaller gadgets, look into an item like ZAP's Portable Energy. This $100 rechargeable, 4.9-ounce device has a 500-cycle life span and can charge or power a cell phone, digital camera, PDA or other mobile gadget. Another option is the Cellboost from Compact Power Systems, a disposable cell phone charger that costs about $10. It will give you the extra time you need to wrap up that important business call.--A.C.K.

Traveling Light
It may feel like the weight of the world on your shoulders, but it's actually just your laptop and gear. It's time to slim down. Here's the challenge: Put together a powerful mobile computing package that weighs under 5 pounds.

Toshiba's $2,099 Libretto U105 comes with an LED-backlit 7.2-inch screen, Windows XP Pro, built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a fingerprint reader and a 60GB hard drive. All that weighs just over 2 pounds. Add the removable DVD multi-drive for reading and writing, and you're at about 3.2 pounds. A $45 BenQ m310 wireless optical mouse provides computing comfort for just 2.8 ounces. And to keep you entertained while traveling, add in an Apple iPod nano. The 4GB model runs $249 and weighs in at 1.5 ounces. More than just music, users can load up their contacts and calendar information. Downloadable iPod scripts from Apple also let you view notes on the go. To carry all your gear, the $25 Targus CVR200 is a 1-pound notebook slipcase that can be used as a stand-alone case. It features a protected notebook section, a file pocket and a front storage section for your business card holder and pen. All together, we're at less than 4.5 pounds, which leaves you with some wiggle room. Business travel doesn't have to be a pain in the back.--A.C.K.

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This article was originally published in the November 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: I'm a Wanderer.

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