Each fall my children eagerly await the arrival of Toys R Us’ annual Big Toy Book. The day the book hits our mailbox they immediately dig in to see what toys are new just in time for the Christmas shopping season. I have a similar ritual. A gadget gal at heart, I eagerly await fall product announcements from manufacturers like Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft who, not so coincidentally, also time the launch of their newest products just before the start of the holiday shopping season. Here’s your guide to tech that’s new and noteworthy for business this fall.
Undoubtedly the world has gone mobile. Tablets are everywhere, and they are now more popular than ever for business users. There are two tablets vying for your attention in the business landscape this fall: Apple’s iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4.
The iPad Pro has been designed specifically for the enterprise user. It features a large 12.9-inch display and has nearly double the computing performance of the iPad Air 2. Unlike prior editions, this new iPad provides multi-tasking capability with its ability to run two apps side by side. An available smart keyboard and stylus (which Apple calls the Apple Pencil) makes the iPad Air Pro feel more like a laptop when you need it and tablet when you don’t.
Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 has been pitched as “the tablet that can replace your laptop.” It has a 12.3-inch display and like the iPad Pro has an available detachable keyboard and stylus. Its powerful computing platform has the ability to comfortably run all your business applications. The Surface Pro 4 offers a distinct advantage over the iPad Pro: it operates on the Windows 10 Operating System enabling it to effortlessly integrate into your existing Windows network.
Wearables took the main stage at a healthcare IT conference I attended this fall. Fitbit’s Surge band and Jawbone’s Up fitness bands are among the most popular wearables on the market today. What is their application to business? Large corporations are incorporating them into their employee wellness plans resulting in cost savings on their health insurance premiums.
The smartwatch extends the benefit of wearable devices beyond fitness tracking. Apple propelled smartwatches into the spotlight this summer with the launch of the Apple Watch. Apple refers to its smartwatch as “the watch reimagined.” Bottom line, it is a timepiece designed to connect users to people and information within seconds putting the power of smartphone information never further away than your wrist.
If you are interested in the benefits of a smartwatch but are looking to find it at a lesser price point, you might consider the Pebble Time Round. Pebble is a lesser known but acclaimed player in the smartwatch field. This newest model is comparable to the Apple Watch in terms of features but it works with both iPhone and Android devices and at a price point that is $100 less than the Apple Watch Sport Edition.
Gamers and gadget gurus have long awaited the arrival of Virtual Reality (VR) technology for personal use. The Occulus Rift is among the better known virtual reality headsets powerfully simulating environments and incorporating artificially created sensory experiences such as sight, hearing, touch, and smell. (If you’ve visited with Kalleo at local tradeshows, you may have had the opportunity to experience the Occulus.)
Currently Occulus developers are working to build custom applications for business use. Real estate agencies and car dealerships are two industries looking to leverage VR to further their businesses. Imagine if you were a real estate agent and you had the ability to provide a client with the ability to “walk through” available homes for sale without scheduling multiple appointments for initial visits. Imagine a headset that allows car shoppers to experience the sensation of what it is like to sit behind the driver’s seat of a new car from the comfort of home. This is the future of VR.
While we are still waiting for the formal introduction of VR technology for business use, there are two low cost gadgets that will enable you to experience the fun of VR at home today. Do you remember ViewMaster by Mattel? The toy has been rereleased with its 3D slide reels replaced with pass cards that interact with your smartphone to blend augmented and virtual reality into interactive learning experiences. Similarly, Google Cardboard uses smartphones to simulate virtual reality experiences. Google will even provide you with plans at no charge to enable you to build your own headset at home. Those plans are available at www.google.com/get/cardboard. (This would make for a fun wintertime activity with your family.)
While it is the season for fun and whimsy, if a business technology purchase is on your wish list this year, I encourage you to give careful thought to the product you are eyeing and consider how you will use it. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of new product releases and come away disappointed. Each of these products are worth your attention. Just make sure they are also worthy of your holiday spending money.