Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Growing Importance of Communities

Having a few moments to reflect on a flight to Miami for the Autotask Community Live event, it struck me how important communities have become in the IT business. April is the busiest time of the year for events in the industry, followed by October. Lenovo will be participating in 9 events in the next 3 weeks covering that many cities.

First, the facts on communities:
Gartner Group conducted an interesting research piece in 2009 where peer networking, associations and communities are the highest ranked ways that small and medium businesses learn, form opinions, and in the end, make decisions.

IDC reported the same finding when they were digging into Healthcare earlier this year. In fact, 4 of the top 5 reported resources for Electronic Medical Record (EMR) selection criteria involve associations, affiliates, colleagues, and buying groups.
With the abundance of information at our fingertips, why do people choose communities?

Business has always been transacted with some level of personal interaction. With the rise of e-commerce in the late 90’s and now with Cloud Computing growing in popularity, it will be interesting if this remains true in the future.

During this time of growing “electronic ubiquity”, the need for trusted and expert sources of information has increased significantly. The amount of competitive choices for products and services, combined with vast information on the internet and endless buzz through social media, has created a scenario where cutting through the “white noise” has become one of the most important skills as we enter the 10’s.

Communities offer a smaller group of like-minded people (perhaps even competitors), sharing similar experiences and challenges, the ability to collaborate and improve decision making. The feeling of belonging is strong, as well as the affinity of membership. There is a feeling that communities are more democratic as they are built by the membership, and participation is encouraged and celebrated.

Who starts these communities?
Tracing back some of the more popular communities to the beginning, the following sources are evident:

1. Connectors

Malcolm Gladwell does a great job of explaining the concept of connectors in the Tipping Point. These are people that you would recognize, even dating back to grade school, that seem to be the center of the universe. Another way you can recognize connectors is in a place like Facebook. You seek out this person, and they are 1 degree of separation from everyone in your school, company, neighborhood, etc. In the business world, many connectors have translated this skill into organizing and building a strong following. They have also recognized that vendors will pay top dollar to participate in these already established communities. There is also a feeling by these connectors of altruism, or “giving back” to the industry or geography where they do business. You may think that connectors are the most extroverted and charismatic people, but in reality, not always.

2. Industry verticals

Several communities start as a result of a new technology or sub-industry. An example in the IT industry is Virtualization, Cloud Computing, Electronic Health Records or Managed Services. When the needs of a group is not being met by larger or non-related peer groups, new ones form organically from members as they branch out.

3. Traditional Media

Trade magazines and event promoters have been quick to recognize the communities trend, and have formed powerful groups under their trusted brand. Having a strong subscription or attendee following, makes the transition to community a logical step for these organizations.

4. New Media – Social Media

The fastest growth of communities has occurred with the explosion of social media. Whether Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, or the dozens of other purpose built community tools, the cost and complexity to start a community is approaching zero. Many connectors started as bloggers who have built a loyal and passionate following. Many bloggers have evolved into community leaders.

5. Distributors and vendors

The fact is that some companies get it and some don’t. Several organizations now recognize communities and have built organizations around community marketing. It is not uncommon to hear Chief Community Officer in marketing circles. Organizing a community goes far beyond marketing and advertising however, with product development, pricing and programs all tightly connected.

How do these communities interact with their followers?
A dizzying array of new marketing vehicles have popped up in recent years. Traditional media such as magazines and events are very important in communicating to a community, but new media allows innovative ways to extend and enhance the message. From webinars, podcasts, vodcasts, blogs, tweets, Linkedin groups, to virtual trade shows, community groups are using as many as 30 different marketing vehicles to be pervasive within the group.

The challenge with these marketing vehicles is different than in the past. The main inhibitor to effectively marketing was money, today it is effective content and delivery. Many of the vehicles I mentioned above are free or cost very little compared with traditional media. Keeping content fresh, abundant and delivered daily takes resourcing beyond the marketing department.

Media savvy Executives who can keynote an event, tweet about it offstage, promote the message to the media gathered, and then write a blog about it later on is the new model for the future. Messaging that would have required triple-checking through legal a few years ago, needs to be just-in-time and delivered on a daily cadence. I have a mantra that is “be visible everyday”.

Finally, community members have very effective personal spam filters. Anything that doesn’t add value to the community will be rejected and have a negative result for the organization delivering. The old days of powerpoints and product spec slides doesn’t cut it.

Why are communities important?
Beyond the human requirements of personal interaction and belonging, communities provide tangible benefits to all involved. Unfiltered information based on common experience will always trump random white papers and case studies posted on the internet. The give/get relationships within a community inspire openness and, in most of the communities I have seen, a level of bluntness that is refreshing.

Some key advantages of communities:

1. Cost of entry low as compared to traditional media and other marketing opportunities. Very much a “grass roots” feeling.

2. Ability to communicate and receive value is high. Tons of touch points, combined with a high degree of passion.

3. Trusted source – community members have likely experienced your challenges, or will shortly. The feeling you can “steal with pride” best practices and contribute your own successes.

4. Ability to enter new markets or industries. Opportunities to network, build like-minded connections and potentially drive business development opportunities.

5. Credibility that comes with “member of” status. Make the affiliations and partnerships that make your organization seem larger and more connected. Getting published or quoted as an expert or thought leader is invaluable for your organization and personal brands.

Finally, what is the future of communities?
Based on the data from analysts, combined with the relentless growth of information available across the internet and the behavioral habits of people, it is difficult to predict a slowdown in the growth of communities in business. Exponential growth, in fact.

Specialization will continue to expand as well, driving more need for these groups and subgroups. There is an upper limit to the size of a community where the point of diminishing returns kicks in. The point at where coordination of the group and the generality of messaging outweigh the benefits listed above. Smart communities will organize sub-groups before the fringe members go off and launch a competing community.

Are you the next Chief Community Officer within your organization?

Why do I need a WiFi enabled toothbrush?

I was amused last week when people were scoffing at a new WiFi enabled toothbrush. The concept relates directly back to a blog I wrote awhile back called “The 20 Computers you WILL own in 5 years”. I finished off the blog by saying 20 was an understatement and the number will likely be closer to 100.

Enter SmartToothbrushes.

The value proposition (if I can call it that) of a internet enabled toothbrush is simply to drive better personal hygiene in kids. We all know (or have been guilty of ourselves) that some children race through brushing their teeth and no amount of parental guidance about the dangers of plaque, false teeth by 30 or looking funny in front of friends seems to do the trick.

What if social media was the answer? Making brushing teeth the latest craze in Wii games! I know my brushing habits would have been better if I showed up to school the next day and was the subject of ridicule. It is a crazy concept, yes. Will it work? Perhaps.

Enter SmartTreadmill.

Another concept that probably has more chances of succeeding is SmartExercise. We all know that peer pressure drives behavior. Yes, in post-college adults too! If you have ever been in a Biggest Loser work competition, or joined a gym or team with a friend, we know that social pressure can deliver results.
Now you proceed to the treadmill and program a run. Do you virtually run around the neighborhood? Rome? Hawaii Iron Man?

Your choice.

First the treadmill posts on Facebook that you are starting a running “event” that others can join. The trash talk begins. Google Maps then kicks in with an actual route including elevation. The treadmill automatically adjusts height based on the actual route and you watch the houses fly by in “street view” mode on the display. After the run, Facebook posts your time, encourages others to run the exact same route (at any time in the future), and downloads it to their treadmill. With an avatar of you running to motivate of course. More trash talk.

The point is not to convince you that pervasive computing will be real. It will be. The point is what devices do we use in our daily lives that could get “smarter” with an internet connection and integration with your online personality?
Yes, there are privacy concerns and the concept of having technology ubiquitous in your life is unsettling for most people. However, the next generations are growing up with this reality and may not think twice about razzing a schoolmate about their flossing habits.

Enter SmartDental Floss…..

Friday, April 2, 2010

Counter-point: You won’t really own 20 computers in 5 years – you may only need one!

Jay McBain, Director Small and Medium Business, Lenovo
March 17, 2010
Being a part-time futurist, I attempt to predict events and apply probabilities to certain things happening. The one thing I didn’t predict was my blog about owning 20 computers in 5 years would create the frenzy it did. The comments received were literally all over the map, both ideological as well as geographic.
Many of the devices I talked about bordered on nonsensical. Who would ever consider a Smart-Jacket anyway? Then yesterday, The VAR Guy breaks a story about a wearable computing legend working secretly on prototypes for a major manufacturer. Perhaps the 5 year window I called out isn’t that far-fetched.
The contrarian view to pervasive computing has held that we will look to one (or very few) devices to deliver the world of content to us, regardless of time or place. This device would be very powerful, offer bolted-down security, and incorporate a blistering array of consumer electronics functionality. Think of every category at your nearest Retailer built into a device no larger than your wallet.
This device would integrate wirelessly with its surroundings. For example, it would communicate with your car and use its speakers as an extension to its own functionality. Same goes for your flat panel or even your desktop computer.
Here are some reasons this view of the future makes sense:
1. No need for integration or management of dozens of devices per person. Business or personal, less devices means less headaches.
2. Not reliant on the promise of the cloud. Local storage and applications have a strong legacy over the past 30 years and will the cloud still have a perception issue around security and performance in the future limiting its adoption?
3. No need for ubiquitous connectivity. The coming wave of 3G and WiMax offerings may not convince people that another $40 per month is worthwhile – especially in the new economic reality. Unless Telco companies will bundle with your home networking at the same price, people may look to fewer, smarter devices that do not rely on a 24/7 internet connection.
4. Easier to lock down security policy on one device. Users may not be comfortable with the personality “footprints” left on a multitude of devices. Think about the caches and cookies left over from your computing experience. Also, the cost and complexity of incorporating biometrics, encryption and other security features into dozens of devices could be daunting.
5. Extension to new usage scenarios. For example, a single device with localized processing and security would be ideal as a payment device at a store.
6. Mass-market appeal and economics. The competition to be this “one” device by manufacturers and component makers would drive down cost significantly, benefiting the consumer.
7. Industry standard interfaces. Without a plethora of technology representing different sizes, shapes and usage, there would be a lower education and training requirement. This could make technology less imposing on some and more accessible to others.
8. Focus on elegant design. The innovation around a single device would drive new levels of design excellence and engineering around quality and ruggedness. For example, being waterproof would be a great feature if this is your only connection to the online world.
A strong argument can be made for or against a future with Pervasive Computing. Some people will argue the middle – the devices that make sense to become smarter and internet aware will happen naturally over time. This is perhaps a more realistic argument and that having a smart toaster isn’t worth the extra dollars, energy and growing landfills full of obsolete ones.
What do you think? Will we have 20 or more computers connected all the time and providing seamless integration into our everyday lives, or will we stick to our current knitting, a Smartphone and a Notebook?

20 Computers you WILL own in the next 5 years

Jay McBain, Director Small and Medium Business, Lenovo
February 9, 2010

Would you recognize if you were at the beginning of a technological tipping point?
Welcome to 2010!
The convergence of ubiquitous connectivity and cloud computing has one simple and very exciting output: the explosion of hardware gadgets we will use to access it anywhere and anytime.
Don’t believe me?
Exhibit A: The evolution of the cell phone into an all-in-one multimedia, gaming, social media, content and business access device.
Exhibit B: The Netbook craze over the last 2 years convincing millions of users that an inexpensive secondary or tertiary device is useful given the right environment.
And finally,
Exhibit C: The feverish debate over the recent iPad announcement as well as the Smartbook and Hybrid categories that Lenovo introduced at CES in January.
Interestingly, most people focus the debate on how they use technology today. For example, why would I need a 10” slate when I have my iPhone, or why would I want an underpowered Netbook with a small screen when I have my full function Notebook for $100 more?
If you focus on how you will use technology in the future, the debate changes significantly. Most people generally agree that within 5-10 years, most things you plug in will have some level of internet connectivity. The question becomes, “where and how is the best way to access information in the future”. A good example is text messaging while driving. It would be hard to make the case that a smartphone or notebook computer are the optimal form factors in this environment.
The goal here is to simply lay out how we can more naturally use technology in everyday environments – perhaps increasing human interaction, productivity, and for the example above, safety.
Now for the 20 computing devices you WILL own within 5 years (in no particular order):
1. SmartClock Radio – an ideal form factor when laying in bed is a device that not only wakes you up but puts together a local news, weather, sports and business “5 min package” to start your day. You fully customize the content and it converts to audio. You can also prioritize important email notifications of what happened overnight.
2. SmartGPS – The devices in your car have got much smarter since their first monochrome ancestors. Helping you with traffic and finding gas stations by price are examples of recent innovations. Think of all the localization data that is uploaded into the satellites. Who will be the first to track all vehicle speeds real-time and predict the right route (as opposed to downloading manual data based on cameras). Even more interesting for those of you who are environmentally conscious, by tracking vehicle speeds all traffic light patterns will be predictable allowing you to time the drive perfectly into all green lights. By the way, there will be devices for every mode of transportation you have, optimized of course for ease of use, including motorcycles, bicycles, jetski’s, etc.
3. SmartFridge – This concept isn’t new, but with the advent of Windows 7 multi-touch and the rapid decline in panel price points over 2009, why wouldn’t you want a “home base” device on your fridge? The all-in-one desktop form factors are interesting, but most people don’t have the counter space to give up to keyboards and mice. Having a 22” Wide panel in the fridge will act as a viewer of all things important in your life. From social media updates, to weather, stock prices, important emails, to cameras and sensors in the fridge that order new products automatically as they are used.
4. SmartHome Server – These are available today and will act as the bridge between the cloud and your other 19 devices listed here. Whether downloading movies, or housing your eclectic MP3 collection, this server will provide fault tolerance and performance to drive the pervasive world. Within 5 years, the replication and fetching ability will be significantly improved and predicted behavior artificial intelligence will know your YouTube patterns and already have the data cached and ready to go. At $70 per TB and dropping, this will continue to explode.
5. SmartFishFinder – Taking a smartphone on a boat is a recipe for disaster as electronics and water aren’t a great mix. Lugging a Notebook is even a worse idea. The FishFinder is an ideal device for a few reasons. Beyond being waterproof, they already have a 5” or larger high resolution screen, and not to mention the audio capabilities. I am sure most people don’t want work disturbances while fishing, however the ability to Google the fish you just landed along with the entire Wikipedia history could be interesting. Getting realtime Doppler weather and sea conditions could be a lifesaver – literally.
6. SmartCar Radio – Back to the text messaging example. The car radio is already hooked into 4 or more high quality speakers and can bring customized, location aware information directly to you. When a message is received, it will recognize if you are stopped at a red light and project on the windshield in a HUD format or if driving will convert to audio and read to you. With voice recognition, you will read back a response and it will convert it back to the sender without you ever taking your eyes off the road. How about when you hear that favorite song and want it on your MP3 player? Done. For your passengers? They will all have viewing devices, either on the dash or in the back of headrests that hook into the car radio as the central CPU and wireless device.
7. SmartHealth Watch – It may not win on style points at the beginning, but the initial examples of watches that hold cell phone, GPS, heart rate, and other capabilities, will transform how we take care of ourselves. A watch that monitors your every step (literally) and uploads your heartrate information to your private Electronic Medical Record (EMR). An easy interface that records, either by multi-touch, audio or camera, everything you eat as well. Most people find this very intrusive and it will not go mass market until the privacy is guaranteed and perhaps you get a 75% discount from your medical insurance?
8. SmartSlate – This is the current debate I referenced above. Is there room for a “tweener” form factor between smartphone and Netbook that acts as an eReader, portable TV, game, or business multi-touch data entry device? With millions of applications coming that will be developed to take advantage of a 10” always connected device. The move away from the traditional clamshell Notebook form factor for secondary and tertiary devices makes sense.
9. SmartGuitar, SmartKeyboard and SmartDrums – An example of how musical instruments will be able to train a user with lights and audio/video guidance. The ability to be always connected will mean hundreds of thousands of songs ready to play (for a nominal fee I am sure). Being able to join a virtual band with players all over the world is when this concept starts to get really cool.
10. SmartRemote – Using the program guide while watching TV is cumbersome and interrupts others. Having a device that not only downloads show data, it supplements it with real-time user reviews, gossip, and previews. The ability to record and availability across all other 19 devices listed here will make this technology core in our entertainment plans.
11. SmartSurface / SmartPanels / SmartFurniture – Whether in the home, office, or in public places like restaurants and shopping centers, there will be multi-touch panels everywhere that vary in shape and size based on the environment. These devices will provide ubiquitous access to all cloud based data and allow users to quickly pull up their own designed portal. Imagine going to a restaurant that has a surface computer as a table. Conversations in the future will become very multimedia driven.
12. SmartCamera – The integration of camera’s into all devices (including most listed here) is inevitable. However, because of the size, weight, form factor, or usage of these devices, the traditional camera, with high quality lenses and purpose specific function, will continue to be an important device. Having pictures transferred directly to the cloud makes sense, as well as the ability to do photo editing and printing directly from the camera will benefit the photographer. The camera will have GPS as well as internet access to the local weather and automatically import optimal photo settings depending on where you are, the weather conditions, and time of day.
13. SmartTV – Represents one of the most inevitable form factors you will own. As signals are now digital, movies and media are downloadable, and entertainment continues the shift to on-demand, the TV will be an important collection and delivery device of content. Having an external set top box and BluRay player will become redundant and access to all of recorded and broadcast history will be available within a quick search. The storage will likely be in the SmartHome Server mentioned elsewhere, and the searching may be in the SmartRemote, but the content will be cached and delivered from the device. The SmartTV will also be extended to other devices, allowing you easily to send a movie up to the bedroom halfway through, or to the SmartPhone if you are going out.
14. Smartphone – This is a device that you likely already own and will continue to. It is a device that gives you pocket access to all data, and while not being the best at data entry or viewing, wins in outright mobility and battery life.
15. SmartNotebook – Another device that you likely own today and will continue to. The ability to create and consume content while being mobile will as important in the future as it is today. Notebooks will continue to evolve and cover a wide range of 8” to 22” form factors customized by the type of user.
16. SmartElderly / SmartKids / SmartPets – The ability to take care of an elderly parent, monitor the security and safety of a child, or simply track where your pet has run off to in the neighborhood will be important as connectivity options reduce in price. Today there are tag based options that are relatively limited in function. Tomorrow, with integration of connectivity and GPS, these devices will be able to proactively notify and alert if certain thresholds are violated. This is the OnStar button on a personal level. Having electronic medical records as well as detailed allergy and other information available in real-time will save lives and protect our loved ones.
17. SmartJacket – Not to be confused with straight-jacket! Clothing will continue to evolve to the point where some interesting technology can be woven in. How about solar receptors sewn right into the fabric that charges devices when placed into the pocket or wirelessly? How about a 6” screen on the cuff that acts as a viewing device when holding a smartphone is clumsy or ineffective? How about a belt or bottom cuff that has the equivalent of a 9 cell battery spread around to disperse weight and give you all day computing on the multitude of mobile devices I have outlined here? This can also be a SmartShoe as a form factor.
18. SmartGlasses – Whether you wear goggles for your occupation, while you’re out skiing, playing a video game, watching a 3D movie, or simply wearing sunglasses outside, this becomes the perfect device to deliver content. Examples exist today with opaque type projection allowing you to look “through” or “at” the screen. Wireless access to either a SmartPhone or any other pervasive device would bring personalized and secure information to the user. Computing ability can also be built right into the frame making this a standalone device for consuming data. This is likely the most natural way a person can consume information.
19. SmartHome - Much has been written about the smart home. With an alarm system, thermostat, and other appliances being internet-aware, the management of the house will become a reality from a remote location. Even if it is turning on lights in the morning, turning down the heat when the house senses no one home (as opposed to being timed), to monitoring electricity usage at every plug and presenting savings opportunities back to the homeowner, the future will be more cost efficient, green, and secure. Your security system will monitor all of these other pervasive devices you own, and be able to alert you if they are stolen and leave the perimeter that you define because of the GPS and communication capabilities. If everything you buy of value is now internet aware and has self reporting capabilities, is this the end of physical crime?
20. SmartGaming – While many (if not all) devices here will support gaming, the true experience needs a dedicated device with the horsepower and graphics capabilities to drive excitement. Future gaming will be holographic, allowing you to roam “inside” the game. Virtual reality will continue to evolve, allowing you and your avatar to travel the world, and experience things like spaceflight first hand. Games will also evolve away from structured levels and local storage and move into a connected world where the game progresses as the participants lead it. Advancing levels of predictive behavior and AI will blur the lines between reality and games.
I chose only 20 computers you will own to give a sample of where we are heading in the next 5-10 years. The reality is that most of us own more than 20 computers today. If you combed your house and counted all of the silicon and microchips, the number would be much higher. In fact, your car has more than 20 computers today. The reality is that we will own more than a 100 computers.
Another way to look at it is that every device that you plug into the wall or run on battery today has probably a couple of possible improvements if it was internet aware. This could include small appliances that have recipes built in, or a microwave that take a photo of the popcorn barcode, compares to internet and then cooks it for the perfect time based on the product and its own cooking capabilities.
We are only at the beginning of understanding the capabilities of those physical things around us as they get access to all of human knowledge.
This is my argument of why pervasive computing will be a reality. All-in-one type devices that try to do everything, tend to do nothing well. Single devices that are specialized for ease of use, cost, as well as laser focused on the task at hand (cooking popcorn) will win the day. The second argument is that when the next generation of microwave is invented with some major new whiz-bang technology, you don’t have to spend a thousand dollars to replace the all-in-one device, but simply just upgrade one function at a time.
Best of all worlds.

More Convergence Drives More Divergence in PC Industry

Jay McBain, Director of Small and Medium Business, Lenovo
2010 will be the year where online communications, entertainment and information converge to continue creating new, divergent types of mobile PC devices. 2008 was the year of the netbook, which impacted the industry in a big way by driving down prices and introducing the concept of “good enough” computing. Since its debut two years ago, the netbook category has expanded considerably with new sizes, features and technologies. If you remember, when netbooks first entered the market, they featured 8 and 9 inch screens. Today’s sweet spot is slightly larger at 10.6 inches, and we even see some 12 inch models being offered.
In 2009, all in one desktops and nettops took off following the success of netbooks. 2010 will bring even further expansion in these categories by incorporating technologies like multitouch, tablet functionality and enhanced graphics and processing performance. If netbooks and nettops weren’t enough, 2010 will bring even more devices to keep you connected and computing with the advent of smartbooks.
Smartbooks take the best of smartphones and netbooks to create a completely new device and category. If you’re looking for all day battery life and virtually continual wireless connectivity in a really thin and light package, a smartbook may be for you. While targeted at consumers primarily, this always on, always connected device may be a good fit for business users who need access to the Internet with a full browser and keyboard experience. With more and more devices being introduced to the market, more choice brings freedom, but it can also lead to indecision. That’s why it’s more important than ever before for VARs to understand the new PC technologies and to help their customers evaluate which PCs are right for their business.
These new trends and devices highlight an interesting phenomena happening in the industry right now. New and improved technologies are driving convergence for entertainment and online activities to handheld and small, portable PC devices. This convergence is magnified by the rise of cloud computing. Now you can check your email, instant message, download movies and music and stream live video on your mobile device choose whether to store your data on your PC or in the cloud.
At the same time as this convergence, the PC industry is diverging by creating new devices and form factors to serve an audience that increasingly wants customized PC technology to suit their specific purposes. For example, someone may use a smartbook as their personal connectivity device for entertainment, a laptop for work and a smartphone for voice communication throughout the day. Some of the new technologies driving convergence of entertainment and communications to mobile devices have largely centered on wireless connectivity with WiFi, 3G and WiMAX. Other technologies like ARM-based processors have enabled all-day battery life for devices like smartbooks. You’ll likely see this transfer into other PC devices in 2010. While Microsoft Windows 7 predominates traditional PCs and netbooks, operating systems on devices like smartbooks resemble smartphones where customer interfaces are layered over Linux.
While there are more technologies driving more choices than ever before, users must still choose which features are most important to them given their primary usage. Ultimately, the purpose behind a device, its design/ease of use and price will dictate its success. Will we continue to see expanded offerings with new devices or will consolidation happen? I’m confident the answer is a resounding “yes” for netbooks long term. Time will tell the next generation of mobility products are introduced.

Five Ways to Call Up a Crystal Clear PC VoIP Experience

Jay McBain, Director Small and Medium Business, Lenovo
VoIP (or voice over Internet protocol) calling has been around for awhile now, but with new advancements in PC hardware and software, more and more businesses are deciding now is the time to give VoIP a try. For customers, VoIP can bring reduced conferencing and travel costs, and for VARs, there’s the opportunity for installation, consultation and hardware purchases, which makes this technology worth exploring. The PC VoIP experience has improved dramatically in just the past two years. Now you may be surprised to see lifelike quality pictures and hear your conversations like you are in the same room with the other person. When choosing VoIP PC technology, here are five areas you should take into account:
  • Optimized Hardware for Sight and Sound: Part of the best listening experience starts with the right microphones, speakers and web cameras. Pick PCs that offer high definition, dual array microphones that are two watts or higher. Noise suppression and echo cancellation software also help make a noticeable difference. Web cameras have come a long way and are now up to two megapixels for a high quality image. Look for cameras with a lower lux rating so you can use them in dim lighting. To make the PC as easy to use as a phone, some PC makers include separate speaker, mic and cameara on/off buttons, which can help ensure privacy.
  • Specialized Communications Software: For businesses, Microsoft Office Communicator continues to be a standard for calls, faxes, emails, webconferences and more. MS Office Communicator certified PCs mean these PCs meet standards for a quality unified communications voice and video experience. Skype is another example of a popular software “softphone” application that continues to be adopted by businesses.
  • It’s About the Connection: If you have the right hardware multimedia features, but a slow Internet connection, you will inevitably experience choppy and jittery calls. With the increasing expectation of constant connectivity, WiFi using the 802.11n standard is a must. VARs will need to evaluate based on customer need whether built-in 3G and/or 4G connectivity is required, however, I recommend customers future proof their PCs with at least 3G connectivity given the small incremental cost of including the technology.
  • Keep Security in Mind: Like with any other remote networking tasks, address security around VoIP with measures including a firewall and antivirus software combined with strong user passwords. Fingerprint readers are helpful features that balance user convenience and IT department standards for security.
  • Remember Basic Storage Applies: For businesses solely using VoIP communications and PCs as their “softphones,” make sure to have plenty of hard drive storage for archiving voicemails and other communications data. Solid state drive storage will offer even faster recall.
I personally have seen companies that have traded their landlines and regular phones to now rely on their PCs as their communications hub through VoIP. Improved PC calling features are continuing to improve and converge with the business need to optimize IT equipment costs and generally control expenses. Now is the time for customers and VARs to seriously consider a VoIP and PC combination.

Thinking About Adding Managed Services to Your Business’ Menu?

Thinking About Adding Managed Services to Your Business’ Menu? Here’s What You Need to Know About PCs
Jay McBain, Director of Small and Medium Business
The economic recession and lower PC prices are contributing to the growth in Managed Services Providers (MSP). It’s a natural progression as VARs look for new sources of reoccurring revenue beyond break/fix. A recent study by CompTIA found that already more than 40 percent of IT firms surveyed categorize themselves as MSPs. The same study cites a seven percent CAGR through 2012 for a $66 billion managed services market. The study also showed that upwards of 11% of all SMB IT spending will be in a monthly managed fee scenario.
So if you’re a VAR thinking about managed services, now’s the time for serious consideration. Before you do, do your homework. Spending time talking to current and potential customers, MSPs and hardware and software vendors, is invaluable to designing the right focus areas for your business. Joining an MSP community is also important, from education and training to mentoring and guidance from peers. Learn from their experiences.
From a PC perspective, here are some of my observations for success in providing managed services. They focus around a few key areas: remote management technology, security features and vendor partnerships and programs.
  • Remote Management Technology - Customers choose MSPs because they are looking for always on technical support. MSPs are looking to provide that level of support while keeping costs down by avoiding having to deploy on-site technical support. PC remote management technologies help align both these goals. Look for servers, desktops and laptops that include Intel vPro and Active Management Technology. Some PC makers also include additional hardware/software productivity tools at no charge that can be easily managed and deployed across a fleet.
  • Security Features – One of the most common IT requests is resetting user passwords. Since there is time and expense associated with this, look for features like fingerprint readers to minimize forgotten passwords and remote hardware password manager tools to help minimize time spent managing passwords. Full hard drive encryption can be a useful preventative measure to protect sensitive data, however it does require good password management. Also, to protect from loss or theft, choose PCs that support Computrace and Intel Anti-Theft Protection.
  • MSP Software Platforms and Programs – As the managed services field continues to grow, PC makers are teaming up with managed services software vendors to optimize and integrate hardware and software. Companies such as Kaseya, Level Platforms, N-Able and ITControl Suite develop some of the most popular platforms for MSPs. With the double-digit growth of Managed Services, a few PC makers are coming up with new programs to incent Channel Partners new to managed services or those already growing.
MSPs are in a good position to capitalize on new PC refresh cycles this year. Many businesses are expected to upgrade their PCs to take advantage of Windows 7 and new Intel Core processors. This bodes well for MSPs looking to deploy and manage these PCs through their lifecycle.

A day in the life of a small business, Lenovo sells cupcakes for a day

Jay McBain, Director Small and Medium Business, Lenovo

March 23, 2010

I had a very interesting and informative day last Thursday with CupcakeStop.com in NYC. Leading up to the ThinkPad Edge 14 and 15 inch launch on March 23, Lenovo wanted to spend some time with small business to see how the technology integrates into their business. The Edge was built from the ground up as a small and medium business optimized device, so seeing it in action was important. We also had the chance to give away 4 of them and the winners are announced below!

Let me first paint the picture on CupcakeStop. An entrepreneurial law student who is graduating in the top percentile of his class in early 2009 decides that an opportunity exists for selling premium cupcakes in New York. After deep market research, Lev Ekster decides that a mobile business is more practical than bricks and mortar and that social media would be at the core of its operation. Fast forward to 2010 and you have a growing business that is adding more trucks and locations, installing e-commerce with international distribution, and is in constant real-time communication with its 11,300+ followers on Twitter.

Watching a day in the life of Lev running his business using the new ThinkPad Edge 14” laptop was very cool. First of all, Lev never put down the ThinkPad Edge. His thousands of customers are following him closely and the level of intimacy with social media is something I have never seen before. From posting menu’s on Facebook the night before, to constant real-time updates on location of the truck as well as inventory remaining with Twitter, Lev uses the Edge as a lifeline to the business.

Here are 10 things that blew me away:

1. Being in a mobile business, CupCakeStop needs constant connectivity 24/7. This means seeking out WiFi hotspots during the day is not an option. Using ThinkVantage Access Connections with the embedded broadband allows access everywhere and anytime to the Internet through an AT&T connection. It also allows easy switching to the home network as well as secure access to public WiFi when available.

2. Security is very important to CupCakeStop. With over 75 varieties of cupcakes, the recipes are key intellectual capital that cannot fall into the wrong hands. Combined with employee payroll data and supplier contracts, Lev uses the fingerprint reader to access the machine and encrypt the data. Also, not having to remember passwords to all of the social media sites was a huge productivity boost.

3. With an Internet run business, including hundreds of Twitter and Facebook updates a day from customers, Lev runs the risk of clicking a bad link and getting a virus. With the Edge being his lifeline, he cannot risk being down for a few days (even an hour would hurt the business). Knowing that ThinkVantage Rescue and Recovery is installed means that by the touch of a button, he can boot into a separate and protected operating system and restore to a point just prior to the virus in minutes.

4. Lev made a great quote: “EVERYTHING in this truck breaks”. A mobile business with high activity level in a tight space, it became very apparent that a robustly designed laptop was critical to the business. The large hinges and legendary Lenovo ThinkPad build quality was very important to his business continuity. Again, waiting for the machine to get serviced is not an option.

5. The power limitations of the truck. Lev made a funny comment that to plug in the ThinkPad Edge would mean he would have to unplug the cash register which isn’t good for business! All day battery life was critical.

6. On the same subject as limited power, the always powered USB port allows Lev to keep his smartphone charged and ready throughout the day – saving another outlet.

7. The high quality light adaptive camera is used to publish new menu items to Facebook and Twitter. For example, the prior day to us being there was St. Paddy’s day which had new and unique Irish offerings. Being connected 24/7 (#1) also allows Skype access with customers and suppliers with the camera.

8. Lev uses the ThinkPad Edge as his personal machine as well. With the investments into new trucks, bricks and e-commerce solutions, he doesn’t want to invest money in an additional laptop for personal use. With the High Definition screen, audio, HDMI port as well as Blu -ray drive all built-in, the Edge handles all of his personal needs with ease.

9. With a new Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive running Windows 7 Professional, Lev can power through his day with multiple applications running concurrently. Previously to his ThinkPad Edge he ran the business from a BlackBerry which started to be a limitation as the business grew in size and scope. An example was a redesign of the website to e-commerce functionality which involved hundreds of prototype back-and-forths with the developer. Having real-time access to the color-palette and sizings, Lev didn’t have to wait till 10pm to view on his home computer.

10. Probably the thing that blew me away the most was the design attributes of ThinkPad Edge. Lev represents the future of social and traditional media entrepreneurs. He was clear about his tools having design elements that represent his company as well as himself. The bold statement that a bright red ThinkPad Edge makes is important as he promotes his business. Ironically, thelaptop is the same color as the stop sign in CupCakeStop.com’s logo….a perfect fit!

Since ThinkPad Edge is a new brand, we added an element of fun to the day to get people excited about the new products with a giveaway…

The lucky winners of the random drawing are:

Pateel Yenikomshian

Bryan Meyerovich

Brooke Brestel

Ronny Walton Jr.


The media hook of a mobile, profitable business run on top of social media is what started the day. The immersion of ThinkPad Edge in the very core of the business is what made the day. The observation of how each feature and function are used in real-time provided Lenovo with the insight around product development for the future.

For Lenovo, a close connection with businesses using our products is very important. Looking beyond cupcakes, we are observing doctors in ambulatory practices work with ThinkPad Edge, as well as accountants, students, and many other industries. Products do not improve in the boardroom. They improve in the real-world.

Day well spent.

How do you bring vPro into mainstream computing?

Jay McBain, Director of Small and Medium Business, Lenovo.
I was doing quite a bit of thinking on the plane coming back from Las Vegas over the weekend from SMB Nation. Managed Services is quickly maturing as a business model as well as a Channel community. Much of the focus, deservedly so, was on the cloud, Saas, RMM and PSA tools. There are, however, key things that hardware vendors can bring to the table to enable Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to:
A) Make current recurring revenue model more profitable and
B) Drive incremental managed opportunities at each client
The buzz around Intel vPro was very strong at the event, and many MSP’s have been successful in recommending the technology as a requirement for supported hardware. I even heard an example of a dual-pricing model for managing PC’s – one with vPro enabled and one without.
The challenge to MSP’s is that new SMB clients will likely not have the technology in house as it predominantly sells to large enterprise and public sector. This means that the potential pricing and service levels will be less aggressive at the beginning – exactly the opposite of what you need to win a new client!
It was reported that Lenovo sold more vPro world-wide than any other PC manufacturer. It is not surprising, given the focus on manageability and security dating back to the mid-1990’s. Given this history, the question becomes: How can Lenovo enable this technology to all clients? From 5 employees to 500, there are key benefits of rolling out this technology and we need to help make it happen.
Intel vPro is a combination of processor technologies, hardware enhancements, management and security technologies that allow remote access to the PC. Lenovo has worked closely with Intel since the beginning in all areas of the technology, most notably around Trusted Platform Module and Wake on LAN. ThinkVantage Technologies by Lenovo extend and enhance the technology even further by focusing on the entire lifecycle of the PC from deployment thru disposal.
The ability to intercept the boot cycle of a PC remotely is the cornerstone to a successful MSP business. Accessing a PC regardless of the state of the operating system can significantly reduce truck rolls and give the management and security options necessary to stay on top of anticipated or reported problems. The proactive options available allow monitoring tools to predict errors, reduce downtime, and elevate security of the client.
Now, back to how Lenovo can help. First are the products themselves. The majority of SMB’s buy products in price cells much lower than vPro is positioned at today. Here are some Channel-only specials we are running from now until end of December, 2009:
These products are at the lowest vPro prices we have ever offered, over 30% lower in some cases. This should help MSP’s position the products, not only for the obvious benefits I talked about above, but for the attractive prices available specifically to SMB clients. Beyond price, Lenovo has also worked hard on making sure the programs and incentives are relevant and profitable for MSP’s. This includes taking away reporting requirements and dropping minimum clip levels to participate. Feel free to explore lenovopartnernetwork.com for further information. The products above can be purchased at any of our authorized Distribution partners: D&H, Ingram, Synnex and Tech Data in the US.
It is incumbent among the hardware manufacturers, or the “edge” of the cloud, to ensure that technologies are enabled and merchandised to SMB clients. Stay tuned for more news from Lenovo over the next few months…

When it Comes to PCs for the SMB: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Jay McBain, Director of Small and Medium Business
When it comes to PCs, small to medium businesses (SMBs) are in the driver’s seat. Over the past two years, this segment of the market has exploded. While large enterprises largely put the brakes on PC spending, SMBs and consumers are still driving growth. The most recent forecasts from IDC predict sales to SMBs to grow double digits next year. PC makers and Channel partners are responding to this demand with new hardware, software and services solutions.
SMB’s comprise a large and diverse category. There’s no one all encompassing definition. Some have IT departments. Some don’t. Some behave more like consumers. Others like corporations. Some buy from retailers. Others buy from value added resellers. They all have varying needs that are largely dependent upon their total number of employees. However, they share more similarities than differences. Across the board, they value reliability, price and performance utmost. Compatibility with software applications, cooling/power, service capability, speed/ease, portfolio breadth, packaged solutions and hardware design are also important.
PC makers are fully embracing the SMB market, and as a result, you’re seeing new PCs developed especially for this segment - from laptops to desktops to servers. Typically, these offerings balance a more modern and eye-catching design which is more like true consumer PCs, with a blend of performance and security features that are more typical of the PC designed for the traditional large enterprise customer. Price forms the third point of this pyramid. Most SMBs are willing to pay between $499 and $799 per PC. Within that range, there are many choices of features. For example, more entry-level models may be equipped with security features like fingerprint readers while more expensive, full-featured PCs may offer Intel vPro technology and encrypted hard drives.
We’re seeing new form factors for SMB’s too. Netbooks, nettops, thinbooks, and even “all in one” PCs have made the jump from consumers to SMBs. Fueled by their attractive price points, most under $500, made many businesses turn their heads and give them a try. Now we’re seeing these “good enough” computing products being refined and developed specifically for these customers. Besides their affordability, another advantage of these types of PCs is space savings for those crowded offices! Many businesses are now using more than one device, and the price of these new categories of products have introduced the concept of “companion” devices.
Channel partners can capture long term opportunity as a trusted advisor from planning to initial point of purchase to deployment and ongoing IT management. When it comes to choosing the right mix of PC solutions, SMBs will rely on business partners to help them see the big picture and evaluate the purchase in terms of long term ROI – not just the sticker price. That’s especially true to ensure lower priced offerings meet the performance needs of growing SMBs. Evaluating quality, reliability, security and manageability software as a total package will also help build confidence with the customer for providing future services. Many of these customers without IT departments are looking for specific managed services like remote monitoring, patch management and managed security that channel partners can provide.
What will the next hot products be for SMBs? I expect the evolution of these new form factors with more business features to drive interest and sales. For example, netbooks with higher level business-grade computing features to continue to gain traction in this market as companion devices to a desktop that is left in the office. The choice of form factors will continue to expand, covering ultra-small devices right up to large screen desktop optimized devices. Channel partners will be front and center in recommending these new products, as well as ensuring that they can be integrated into the customer’s infrastructure and properly managed throughout their lifecycle.

Is your PC secure? Check the following list to make sure

Jay McBain, Director of Small and Medium Business, Lenovo
The one thing that hasn’t gone down during this economic downturn is the threat of data theft and information security. If you scan the marketplace there are hundreds of products, including hardware, software and services that promise to reduce these threats.
Almost every survey that is conducted with small and medium business customers ranks security in the top few issues that keep them up at night. Lenovo, along with our trusted partners, have been investing in building secure, rock solid, PC devices for over 20 years.
Here is a list of key attributes for PC security:
  1. Fingerprint Reader – It all starts with physical access to your data. The ability on both ThinkPads and ThinkCentre desktops, workstations and servers to use biometrics for entry greatly reduces the risk of data or identity theft. Did you know that 40% of Helpdesk calls are for password resets? Lenovo Password Manager software links up with the fingerprint reader to provide easy access to protected applications and websites.
  2. Encryption – combining biometrics with encryption is a great one-two punch that locks down access to data even if the drive is removed from the system and the physical platters are searched for information. You can buy special drives now called FDE or Full Disk Encryption drives that have built in hardware to run as fast with encryption as normal drives do without.
  3. Anti-theft and Theft Recovery – with 92% of companies of all sizes reporting laptop theft, combined with 42% of non-encrypted drives, the need to protect assets has never been greater. Working with Intel and Absolute Software, Lenovo offers several layers of protection including “poison pill” deactivation, “theft mode” timers with login protection, and emergency remote data deletion. Lenovo has an exclusive with embedded Computrace software on select models.
  4. Wireless Security – Making sure wireless connections are secure is sometimes difficult for the end user. They don’t tend to understand firewalls, ports, and vulnerabilities and need the PC to be smart enough. Lenovo includes “Access Connections” with the PC which simplifies connections and ensures an extra layer of security.
  5. Physical Security – from locking the mobile PC and related components with a key lock, to blocking out prying eyes on an airplane with a privacy filter, there are several hardware options that decrease the risk of assets being stolen or data being compromised. Another example is the new Lenovo password enabled hard drive which offers encryption.
  6. Secure Data Backup and Recovery – storing a backup of data is a good practice for everyone, the risk associated with having data on external drives or CD-ROMs is high. Lenovo offers backup and recovery scenarios that use hidden secured partitions on the hard drive. Lenovo also offers an Online Data Backup service that is very secure and cost effective.
It can seem overwhelming the amount of hardware, software and services in the market to protect asset and data security as well as personal/business identity. Focusing on just a couple of the steps above will go along way to ensure that you do not end up in next years statistics for a security breach.
Lenovo has invested heavily in this area and there are some great new innovations coming out every year.

Why Corporate PC’s Still Matter

Jay McBain, Director of Small and Medium Business, Lenovo
After announcing the ThinkPad T400s last week it got me thinking about the differences between corporate PC’s versus there consumer counterparts. Since 1992, the ThinkPad has represented the gold standard in Notebook quality, durability, security, and innovation. The most recent announcement added to the very successful T Series line of products aimed at corporate road warriors.
The T400s borrowed some of its design cues from the X300 family of products that launched in 2008. BusinessWeek at the time ran a cover story naming the X300 the “Perfect Laptop”. This was right around the time that another PC vendor announced an ultra-thin product that fit in a manila envelope in their advertising. The conclusion of the article was that while ultra-thin and light is the goal of all Notebooks, it must be balanced with usability features as well as durability considerations. This is especially true in corporate environments where having optical drives and the appropriate ports available is necessary to be productive.
The T400s took the “Perfect Laptop” to the next level, first by offering a larger 14” (1440x900) WXGA+ LED display. It also includes an ultra-thin (9.5mm) optical drive which supports Blue Ray on select models. From a performance perspective, it includes high end Intel Standard Volt (SV) processors at 2.4 and 2.53GHz. Storage and Memory has been enhanced with the addition of SSD drive options and Turbo Memory.
Connectivity is robust with WAN, WLAN, WiMAX, Bluetooth and UWB. A new technology, Constant Connect, has been introduced which is a partnership between Lenovo and Research in Motion Blackberry, giving the user the ability to transmit email to and from the PC – even when it is turned off!
Security has been enhanced beyond Fingerprint Readers and encryption with the introduction of Constant Secure. This has a remote disable option for a lost or stolen laptop – rendering it unusable with an SMS text message!
Looking at the consumer market today, much of the pre-Windows 7 buzz is around multi-touch. While this feature has definite applications in photography and object manipulation, it doesn’t satisfy the core needs of the corporate PC user. Consistently, surveys of business users name security, connectivity, reliability and manageability as their key requirements in choosing a Notebook vendor. By the way, looking at enhancing the “Perfect Laptop” the T400s does support multi-touch.
Another innovation in the T400s is a slight change to the keyboard layout. Based on extensive end user research, the Escape and Delete keys have been enhanced based on usage patterns. A new Microphone Mute button has also been added based on the growth of video conferencing and Skype.
All of this fits into a package that is .83 inches thin and 3.9 pounds! This is the thinnest and lightest T Series product ever to come to market and truly takes the “Perfect Laptop” to the next level. Starting at $1,599 US for a strongly configured T400s, it is a game changer in the corporate space.
I believe we will see a greater differentiation in the future between Consumer and Corporate PC’s. One market is strictly driven on price and lowering the common denominator to a high level spec sheet, the other is driven by innovation in the areas of security, connectivity, usability, reliability and manageability.

The Rise of Managed Services

Jay McBain, Director of Small and Medium Business, Lenovo
There has always been one constant in the technology industry. During every major economic downturn, opportunities emerge for Channel Partners to transform their businesses and increase their value to their customers. It is clear that this round is about Managed Services.
What are Managed Services?
The term Managed Services is very broad in its definition. In fact, Wikipedia shows over 30 different major categories of services that fit under the umbrella. Simply, it is the practice of customers transferring day-to-day IT management responsibility as a method to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of operations. To a Managed Service Provider (MSP), it is the evolution from break/fix to Professional Services to fully remote monitoring and control of a client’s IT. Many MSP’s bill a fixed monthly fee and use sophisticated dashboards and reporting tools for providing a defined set of services.
What are the benefits?
For customers, there are several benefits. Probably most important is having IT as a predictable variable expense that can be funded with OpEx vs. CapEx. It allows for reduced IT staffing requirements while tapping into an expert pool of professionals. It also allows the customer to effectively level the playing field with larger competitors and access skills and resources that they would be unable to do on their own.
For MSPs, the benefit is a profitable, recurring revenue stream. This “base” of revenue allows for better planning and growth strategies. As well, Managed Services buffers the margin erosion in many hardware and software products over the past number of years. An increase in customer ownership and retention, as well as more efficient use of technicians makes this model more attractive to traditional break/fix resellers.
Is it too late to get on board?
Absolutely not! While the growth of MSP’s in North America is rapidly increasing, we are still in the infancy stage of this market segment. A couple of years ago, there were roughly 400 MSP’s as compared to over 4,000 today. However, a June survey by Kaseya shows that only 18% of current VARs describe their business as “fully outsourced IT”. Almost 80% of VARs are still operating in a break/fix or project based IT model.
The MSP model has primarily grown in the Small and Medium Business space. In fact, the same survey noted that 90% of VARs have less than 1,000 PC’s under management. In roundtables conducted by Lenovo and Intel, MSPs relayed a “sweet spot” of about 20-30 computers per client or the “2 person IT shop”.
How does Lenovo add value to MSP’s?
Lenovo (and previously IBM), has spent over 15 years investing in key MSP related technologies such as remote management, security and durability. With a strong legacy of supporting large customers with complex IT departments, Lenovo has built a robust set of tools and technologies called “ThinkVantage”. Many of these tools, almost 15 in total, come included at no charge with ThinkPad, ThinkCentre and ThinkServer products and are designed to lower costs from deployment to disposal.
For example, on the security front, Lenovo was the first company to incorporate a security chip in its products, later to become known as the Trusted Platform Module. Lenovo was also first to market with a fingerprint reader as well as robust bios and hard drive passwords, and external port control. Looking forward, a “poison pill” technology allowing MSP’s to send a simple text message to a PC to disable it after it is stolen will be available.
The goal of all MSP’s is to eliminate “truck rolls”, the unprofitable deployment of technicians for software related issues which make up over 80% of helpdesk calls. With Intel’s vPro technology, combined with Lenovo’s ThinkVantage Technologies, an MSP can wake up a system that is turned off and remotely take it over with the same access as being right in front of the unit.
To protect against hardware failure related truck rolls, Lenovo has incorporated durability design attributes into Notebooks such as protective “roll cages” for the screen and motherboard, “air bag” technology for the hard drives that sense a drop and brace for impact, and spill resistance including dual drainage holes in the bottom of the unit. This is in addition to the quality materials protecting against cracks, broken hinges, and cracked screens. In fact, Think products are the only certified PCs by NASA to travel into space!
Finally, Lenovo understands the importance of MSP’s being able to run their businesses from proactive IT management tools such as Kaseya, Level Platforms, N-able and Zenith Infotech. In addition, reporting tools such as ConnectWise or Autotask are important for billing and reporting purposes. Lenovo understands the importance of integration and is working with these firms to incorporate our ThinkVantage tools into their dashboards and tools.
Lenovo has programs and incentives to help MSP’s acquire demo products as well as increasing margins on hardware sales to their customers. A full suite of services and financing are also offered which can be used for Hardware as a Service (HaaS) type of environments.
Again, this is an opportune time for Channel Partners to understand the Managed Services model and choose the right vendors to build or further develop their practice.

Have we Reached the Age of Pervasive Computing?

Jay McBain, Director, Small and Medium Business, Lenovo

For years I have been speaking about pervasive computing, the concept that technology will be ubiquitous in our everyday life. The debate has centered on whether we will focus on one powerful and flexible computing device to service all of our needs – from email, web surfing, gaming, managing personal finances to running our small business – or a myriad of devices that are optimized for our current location.

Watching people fumble with a 17” wide notebook on a regional flight or saving their work from a desktop computer onto a memory key remind us that a single device will never be optimized for all different uses. Our world has become increasingly connected, meaning that electronic devices are with us 24/7. It makes sense that these devices are becoming more web enabled and delivering more value than their intended use.

Today we are witnessing the explosion of Netbooks as a secondary device, either in the home or small business environment. These devices have changed the business model for the computer industry, for the first time offering “thin and light” for the lowest price. In the past, the thinner and lighter a Notebook was, the higher you would expect to pay. The other phenomenon behind the growth in Netbooks is price. Buying behavior research shows that the $300 price point, regardless of consumer electronics category, drives a product to be mass-market. Think of VCRs or DVD players, digital cameras, XBOX, cell phones, etc. When these devices hit $300, it seemed like everyone had them on the Christmas list.

Another segment of computer that you will see very soon is Thinbook. These devices are very thin and light, stylish, have larger screens and longer battery life than Netbook. Powered by Ultra Low Voltage technology from Intel, these devices weigh around 3 pounds, are less than an inch thick and have all day computing ability. The price point will be between a Netbook and a full function Notebook.

Looking at these growing segments from a screen size point of view, they fill the gap between smartphones and Notebooks. Thus, depending on your job or lifestyle, or simply depending on the activity you are planning, you may choose a 4-6” smartphone, an 8-12” Netbook, a 13” Thinbook, 14-17” Notebook, or 22”+ desktop to stay connected and add value.

Looking into the future, it makes sense that other electronic devices from alarm clocks to fish finders to car radios become web enabled and serve as the appropriate device based on activity. This concept of “location based computing” will better fit technology into our busy lives and make it a more natural environment for communicating. You will likely own 20 or more computers within 10 years, they will just be integrated in the things you already buy.