Regardless of what you want to call it (smartbook, netbook, web book, e-reader) 2010 will be the year that we all realize we need a fourth computer device in our lives, and wonder how we got by so long without it. By the end of 2010 our personal IT infrastructure will fall into four categories:
Desktop computer – The old standby, and still the best tool for most work. Prices are low for powerful, multi-display devices that have high quality speaker systems and can serve as a media hub for the whole office/home.
Notebook computer – The only way to travel with most of your office in a backpack. Large keyboards, decent screens and good battery life make today’s notebooks ready for serious work. Some people are starting to eliminate the desktop computer in favor of using a notebook full-time, but the most powerful are too big and heavy for frequent travel.
Net-smart Book-tablet – This is where the new category fits into the lineup. It’s a device that is smaller and much lighter than a notebook/laptop computer, but bigger than a cell phone with an 8 to 12 inch screen for easy reading. It is primarily designed for consuming media, that is: reading books, magazines, newspapers, and blogs; watching television, movies and YouTube; browsing Web sites for work, school and fun; and listening to music. Skype will allow you to use these wi-fi devices as a phone, but some will no doubt be sold with cell phones built in (the Kindle already includes a cell radio, but only for data). The current crop look mostly like small notebooks, using a clamshell design. But the old notebook form factor isn’t very convenient for reading on the couch, in bed, or in the bathroom, and weight is a big problem. Expect the new 2010 generation to be very light and more tablet-like, or have clever folding or sliding systems so they can be held flat. You’ll take this new device places you would never think to bring your notebook, but not everywhere like your cell phone.
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Use your iPhone to Swipe Credit Cards
Have you ever wanted to accept credit cards for your small business, or just during your weekend garage sale? For many people the process of getting a merchant account, paying the minimum monthly fees, and setting up the software is just too much trouble and expensive so they don’t bother. But that could result in lost sales and unsatisfied customers. Finally, a new company called Square, Inc. is making it much easier. According to the Square Web site you can “Start accepting payment cards immediately with Square. No contracts, monthly fees, or hidden costs.”
Sign for Your Purchase
Square has created a clever little credit card reader that plugs into the audio jack on the iPhone. (The Web site actually says any device/phone with an audio jack, but it appears that they currently have software only for the iPhone.) The little scanner reads the credit card and uses audio to transfer the data to the iPhone. Customers sign the receipt on the iPhone screen. The phone then encrypts the information and uses its Internet connection to authorize the purchase, just like a Web site would authorize a credit card.
Besides simplifying the actual credit card process Square is also providing customer relationship features. For example, they can track repeat customers for you so, for example, the 10th bagel or coffee could be free.
A nice security feature is the ability to see a customer’s photo to verify their identity. But this would require the customer to set up an account with their picture in advance – not very likely until Square becomes hugely popular.
One of the people behind Square is Twitter co-founder and chairman Jack Dorsey so the team certainly has the resources to make this successful.
We will be signing up for a Square account and will update this post with first-hand information as soon as possible.
Motorola Cell Phone 1983
Back in the old days it was easy to buy a cell phone – if it made phone calls you were good to go. At some point the cell phone became the “smart phone” which is really code for “universal communications and entertainment device that fits in a pocket.” It’s pretty amazing really, but a short list of things I expect my phone to do these days includes:
- Web browser
- E-mail device
- Contact and calendar management
- Task managment and notepad
- Instant/text messaging
- GPS moving map with audible turn-by-turn directions
- Watch television shows, movies and YouTube
- Music player (and music store)
- Mobile hot spot providing Internet access for multiple computers
- Manage my Netflix movie queue
- Still camera and audio/video recorder
- Weather reports with animated radar images
- Animated airline flight tracker
- Make phone calls
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