Since the new iMacs rolled out a few months ago, one of its continued best sales hooks is its picture on the Apple website. It's a very prominent picture shown in profile.
With that picture came the latest hot trend in desktops; thin is in! In the months since, PC makers including Dell and Gateway, have been falling over themselves rushing out their own supermodel thin all-in-one desktops. Who could resist? They're beautiful, sleek, light weight, and just plain cool.
'They're also really expensive. They're so beautiful. But, I can't see them spread across a business. They look too easy to topple over' says Michelle Warren, a senior research analyst from the Info-Tech Research Group.
From desktops to handhelds, technology products are increasingly marketed more for their style than substance as users have changed their perceptions of devices from tools to vanity items. It's an easy trap for even the most fiscally conscious executives to fall into these days.
'For us, our technology choices are always about functionality and benefit. I say that and I'm talking on an iPhone, which I don't see any justification for using,' says Reuben Swartz, president of Mimiran, an Austin, Texas-based pricing analytics software company.
Given that Swartz's business is based on promoting fiscal efficiency, he admits that he can't afford technology choices that look too slick for fear it will contradict his company's image. 'We don't want to look like we're spending a lot of money on eye candy,' says Swartz.
Warren, who watches trends in the cosmetic designs of technology, would be one of the first to encourage business owners to not bow to the bling and at the same time advises that some of the latest fashions in high tech are actually good for business. Here's some advice products with sleek tech designs that could help – or ultimately hamper -- your ability to do business.
Bad for business
- Mobile Devices. 'Qwerty keypads take too much time to press those buttons. Handhelds that come with a stylus and accessories like Bluetooth are easy to lose. Avoid things with too many moving parts, like the new Samsung phones that involve two flips, instead of one,' says Warren. Other features to avoid, unless it has an obvious benefit to the users work: cameras and music. It's just one more thing that can break and be abused by the employee.
- Desktops and notebooks. 'We're seeing more notebooks coming in colors like red and pink. It helps express individuality. But in a corporate setting, stick with black. It's more professional,' says Warren. As for those desktop towers, keep them under the desk and out of sight. Newer features coming to market include Blu-ray DVD drives. You can't beat the razor crisp graphics, but they require a lot of extra computing power to run and can cut battery time down to as little as an hour.
- Conference room equipment. This is often customer-facing technology, and therefore, cosmetics count. That being said, given a choice, choose functionality. Clients will forgive an unsightly box shuttling back and forth across a long table, but don't expect the same amount of patience with poor quality microphones, speakers or hard to manage connections.
- Wires. If it's customer-facing technology, go wireless if possible. 'Wires are ugly, not cool and very last century,' says Warren.
Good for business
- Mobile Devices. Warren points out that small to mid-sized businesses have the advantage of letting their employees pick their own devices and what works best depends on what the user wants. That being said, she puts in a word for BlackBerry. 'There's something about that keypad. It has a very low training rate. People pick it up very fast,' says Warren.
- Desktops and notebooks. Trendy options like the new MacBook Air notebook or any of those all-in-one desktops make no sense out in the cubicles. However, spending the extra money for those customer-facing positions like the front desk or the consultant who needs a little extra style on sales calls may be worth it.
- Lighter weight technology, lighter weight accessories. The good news about smaller mobile devices and thinner notebooks is that briefcases have significantly lightened up in recent years. Five years ago, it was not uncommon to see the average road warrior trudging through airports with a 20 pound bag draped over the shoulder and a cell phone stuffed in a side pocket. Bags are increasingly smaller and down to a few pounds allowing them to be made with lighter materials like canvas. The trend to travel light has also inspired executives to lug around less paper and store more of their files on the computer.
Touch screens are getting a lot of attention these days, but Warren warns it's not a mature technology yet. It will be some day, probably sooner than later. Also watch for bigger screens on mobile devices.