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Rugged LaptopsTelepresence SuitesUSB ThumbdrivesMicrosoft Surface RTApple iPhone
These business devices could do no wrong in 2012. But this year they might make way for better alternatives.--John Brandon
Laptops are losing momentum in comparison to tablets like the iPad and the Kindle Fire. But in the rugged market, where field workers need extra mobility when they climb up a telephone pole or work out of their truck, a notebook is even less useful. That’s why you'll see the decline of rugged laptops like the Panasonic Toughbook and the rise of rugged tablets. A tablet has fewer mechanical parts (such as hinges to hold the screen) and they have fewer fans and ports to clog up on a rainy day.
Cisco started a revolution when it introduced high-end telepresence suites about two decades ago. You can pop into a conference room and chat over an HD video signal to the Singapore office, saving on airfare and travel time. The problem with these videoconferencing rooms is that you have to physically go to the location, and mobile workers are going to balk at that idea more and more this year. Plus, high-def webcams on tablets and notebooks, not to mention extremely fast wireless access, will make these rooms seem archaic. The final straw? Small- and mid-sized companies can’t afford the exorbitant fees.
Cloud storage is here to stay, despite what you might think about the security problems. For some reason, tiny USB thumbdrives were still all the rage as a way to distribute product info last week at CES. (A photographer friend collected at least 40 of them.) But there are few reasons to keep these around unless you are a glutton for punishment. They are easy to lose, prone to problems, and cumbersome for anything except a quick temporary back-up. When something like Box is always a click away on any mobile device, there’s no reason to keep using them.
The Surface RT may be hit by a perfect storm: There aren’t enough new Windows 8 tile apps that run on the mobile processor, and the RT can’t be used to run regular Windows apps. In many ways, the RT tablet reminds me of the BlackBerry PlayBook: a good device with a responsive screen and long battery life, but a paltry number of legitimate apps. Add to this the confusion over how to use the new UI and I suspect businesses may take a pass. The fact that Samsung cancelled plans for a Windows RT tablet is also not a good sign.
This must be a serious typo, right? Nope. The darling of the tech community is facing challenges. Its stock price dipped below $500 recently after Reuters and The Wall Street Journal both reported cutbacks on manufacturing orders for the iPhone screen. But what’s really happening? My theory is that consumers are finally realizing the iPhone is not really worth the higher price tag at carrier shops, especially when Samsung phones cost about half as much. One other sign: In the past, an app debuted on the iPhone; now, many developers do a simultaneous release.
Read more: Why the New BlackBerry Is Worth a Look