The speed at which technology evolves has never been faster. But every once in while there is a gadget or piece of software that just never seems to get any better—it's permanently stuck behind the curve. And what's worse, the thing never seems to go away either.
Ergonomic experts have been telling us for years to use a trackball. Your hand rests in a more comfortable position, and your wrist moves less frequently. And yet, I'm pretty sure no ergonomics expert has ever used one. If they did, they'd know that as you move the larger cue ball on the top, the mouse can jump erratically. Worse, a trackball is less precise for clicking on Web links—a common task for anyone at work these days.
A router is the heart of any small business—they connect to your DSL or cable modem so your employees can access the Internet and tap into your server. Unfortunately, even with some advances in setup software, configuring a router is still a cryptic process. You typically have to type in an IP address like 192.168.0.1 and then wade through a text interface that only makes sense to the techie elite. Fortunately, some newer models, like the Linksys E4200, solve this with an app.
Microsoft has improved the popular Web browser of late, but that has not helped the millions upon millions of blissfully unaware Web users from trudging on with an earlier version. Walk into many small businesses and you’ll see Internet Explorer 6 running in its full glory—three full releases removed from the current version. The problem? IE6 is a common target for malware purveyors and hackers. More modern browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are faster and more secure.
I’ve covered 3D phones a few times, and this is a category I hoped would work out. The problem is that the screen technology is just not that convincing. You can create a sales demo or a presentation in 3D, but make sure you hand out Tylenol to those viewing the screen before you start the demo. 3D is more convincing when the movie is running at a large enough size for our brains to perceive the effect.
Linux is an open source operating system that comes in many flavors—it’s basically a free alternative to Windows and Mac. Unfortunately, the OS has never really made a big impact in small business circles, mostly because so few people can figure out how to use it. Ironically, Linux is incredibly common as an embedded platform—say, in your TV set-top box or in your car. But ask Ted on your sales team to connect over Wi-Fi using Ubuntu and you’ll need to show him a training video.—John Brandon