Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Maynard G. Krebs...

posted by Scott Roche

For those of you too young to remember "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" (actually I am to but I became addicted to it while watching Nick at Night) all you need to know for this is that there is a character named Maynard G. Krebs (played by Bob Denver) who was basically allergic to work. The mere word made him twitch. In today's society he would die, convulsing and foaming at the mouth.

We are surrounded by things to help us "work smarter, not harder". We have Blackberrys, smart cells, laptops, palmtops. It's all freakin' crazy. What these things can effectively do is chain us to our job. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about technology and using it to help us do our job. I realize that we have a much more mobile workforce and that the "on-demand" production of goods requires flexibility of schedule. This means that workers need a tool that can truly help them work.

Laptops are generally too heavy and can be expensive with woefully short battery lives. Smart phones and PDAs are good for portable schedule and contact management. They can even let us check our email and use some MS Office applications. The trade off is a painfully small screen and no easy way of on the fly data input. (I LOVE watching my Crackberry addicted friends typing emails.) So what's the answer?

Enter the UMPC, the platform the Intel and MS are hoping will bridge the gap. It's still really early days for this concept. There are only two on the market (or about to be); Samsung's Q1 and the Tablet Kiosk eo. Neither one will set the world on fire, but I think it's a step in the right direction. Their screens run around six inches and they're light at just under two pounds. They can run a full version of Windows XP with some geegaws specifically for UMPCs like an onscreen keyboard. Early reports say that the battery life isn't as good as it was hoped. Add to that the price tag of a little over a grand and my enthusiasm wanes a bit.

Still, the technology to truly make these viable as more than a glorified media player is just up ahead. Just remember that no matter what you use, all of these things have a power button and I strongly recommend that you turn it to the off position once in a while and move into real life. Part of working smarter means knowing when to knock off and head to the pub.


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