Think cool. Think smart. Think small. Think portable. Think two-in-one or three-in-one or all-in-one. Think wireless. Think in color. And don't forget the accessories.
If you're shopping for high-tech gear this holiday season, that's pretty much all you need to know. Executive gadgets just keep getting more powerful and more portable. The most popular products either fold up -- such as the collapsible keyboard -- or clip on or snap off or double as something completely different. You can pick a pager that lets you access E-mail or use a handheld to shoot photos or even make phone calls. And while they're serious state-of-the-art items, some of the best business toys are an awful lot like, well, toys: a two-pound battery-operated portable printer; a camcorder the size of a Coke can. They even come in colors. Tired of that Pacific blue faceplate cover on your Palm m100? Just swap it for a new one in green mist or ruby pearl.
Of course, nobody buys every new business gadget. The trick is to choose what you really need. Or at least what you'll really use.
Stacy and Mark Andrus, a husband-and-wife team who co-own Stacy's Pita Chip Co., in Randolph, Mass., consider just two pieces of equipment critical to running their $1.3-million snack-food business. Stacy relies on a PalmV handheld for scheduling appointments and keeping names and numbers handy; both she and Mark make calls on a Nokia cell phone and pay a flat rate for 500 minutes a month of talk time.
Sure, they can think of other stuff they'd probably use. She'd like a digital camera. He'd like a combination pen-tape recorder for dictating notes on the run. That doesn't mean they'll run out and buy them: the Andruses haven't exchanged gifts since launching their business, in 1997. Instead, Stacy says, they opt for something they really need. "We try to go away and travel," she says.
But for those of you who've just gotta have gadgets, we've put together a sampling of this year's top tech toys. However, as any O. Henry reader knows, choosing one thing means giving up something else. Among our favorites omitted here: the executive motor scooter, the combination hair dryer-iron, and the lime green rubber radio. What is here is our gift to you: a cross section of today's cool stuff.
Candid handheld: Handspring Eyemodule turns a handheld computer into a digital camera. (Other modules include an MP3 audio player cell-phone attachment.) For details go to www.handspring.com. Eyemodule retail price: $150
Roll it: Canon Elura2 MC digital camcorder weighs just 13 ounces but shoots high-quality Internet-ready video and photos. For details go to www.canon.com or www.cameraworld.com. Retail price: $1,399 to $1,599
Vocal chord: Shirt Pocket Micro Voice-Disguiser changes voices for stealth or silliness. Manufacturer's suggested uses include making callers think you've got a staff. For details go to www.igadget.com. Retail price: $40
Web time: Motorola's Timeport cell phones can browse the Web, synchronize with PCs, receive short messages, and send faxes. For details go to www.motorola.com. Retail price: $299 to $399 plus service contract
Attention, 007: Canon PowerShot S100 digital Elph camera fits in a shirt pocket but produces high-resolution pictures. Optional housing protects camera for underwater photography. For details go to www.canon.com or www.cameraworld.com. Retail prices: camera, $495; housing, $240
Turn (on) the page: With its tiny keyboard, Motorola Timeport P930 pager lets users send and receive messages; the Web-enabled device communicates wirelessly with pagers, phones, and fax machines. For details go to www.motorola.com. Retail price: $399 plus service contract
Sky's the limit: OmniSky modem lets handheld-computer users send E-mail and browse the Web. For details go to www.palm.com and www.omnisky.com. Retail prices: PalmVx, $399; OmniSky modem, $149 if bought with 12 months' service, $299 otherwise; OmniSky wireless Internet service, $39.95 a month
Phone face-lift: Nokia faceplates, available in various hues and patterns, change cell-phone colors in a snap. For details go to www.nokia.com. Retail price: $19.95 to $29.95
Print shop: Canon BJC-55 portable bubble-jet printer produces five black-and-white or two color pages a minute and comes with a battery for printing on the run; it weighs 2.1 pounds. An optional accessory converts the printer into a scanner. For details go to www.canon.com. Retail price: $349
Wrist rest: Rister Mouse Pillows attach to wrists with Velcro straps, providing comfy support. For details go to www.risterlamouse.com. Retail price: $4.99 each
Fold and go: Targus Stowaway Portable Keyboard folds up to pocket size, includes a built-in dock for handheld computers, and weighs less than eight ounces. For details go to www.targus.com. Retail price: $99.95
Mighty mousepad: MySmart.com's customizable "smart" mousepad works like a car radio, with one-button access to news, weather, E-mail, and favorite Web sites. For details go to www.mysmart.com. Retail price: $19.95
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