Magazine article Marketing

Portable Pointers

Magazine article Marketing

Portable Pointers

Article excerpt

Depending on your viewpoint, the portable computer can be an invaluable tool for personal efficiency - or the ultimate accessory for the poser.

The computer industry certainly believes (but then it would, wouldn't it?) that sales and marketing people are among those who can benefit most from having a computer system you can put under your arm, not as a fashion item, but as a tool for doing business more efficiently.

Certainly, you have the potential to carry around with you full records on your company, your customers, and a. complete history of your dealings with them. The machine can also remind you when to do things, it can generate letters and mailshots for you. It can analyse market shares and trends. And with improved graphics displays, it can be a powerful presentation aid.

Not surprisingly, making a success of using a portable computer depends largely on buying the right system in the first place. That is not as hard as it sounds, since most of the systems have so many common components as to be identical apart from the label. But there are a few golden rules to follow, and few bits of jargon to learn to ensure the salesman doesn't walk all over you.

So here are a few pointers for the techno-virgin.

The basic elements for success are the hardware, the software, and in some cases, the right communications. The hardware is the computer itself (of which there is a vast choice); the software is the program that does the things you need doing (and the choice here is also growing); and the communications part is the bit that lets you link up to your office computer when you are on the road and exchange information.

The hardware portables come in three main forms: laptop (12 pounds or more and the size of a portable typewriter), notebook (six or seven pounds, and the size of a hardback), and palmtop ( less than one pound, and like a large calculator).

There are bargains to be had among laptops. That's because they've been overtaken to some extent by the lighter notebooks. Palmtops are OK for little jobs like keeping names and addresses, and playing with spreadsheets, but they won't handle anything meaty. My advice would be if you can afford it, get a notebook.

Next rule: make sure it works off battery power. Most, but not all, do.

Choose a system with a 386 or 486 processor. Don't worry about the jargon, but the processor is the brain of the system, and you want all the power you can afford - not because you're going to turn into a computer genius overnight, but because generally speaking the more sophisticated the software you use, the more power it will require.

The same goes for memory - the RAM(random access memory) and the hard disk. If you are going to be running Windows (see software below) you'll need four megabytes of RAM and at least a 60 megabytes disk. The dealers don't always tell you this. Buy the most you can, as computers tend to fill up with new programs and data very quickly.

How about a colour screen? It could go down really well when doing customer presentations.

Six months ago you couldn't get a colour screen with a battery-powered system. Now you have a growing choice. At the time of writing Dell, AST and Sharp have colour systems ranging in price from 2500 [pounds] to 4500 [pounds].

Yes, you do have to pay quite a premium for colour - after all, you can pick up a decent mono system for less than 1000 [pounds] - and you need to know that not all colour screens are the same.

The main dividing line is between active and passive matrix technology. Briefly, active matrix gives a much better and brighter image, but because it is so fiendishly difficult to make, costs more.

So the Dell system for around 2500 [pounds] has passive matrix, providing a very Conranesque palette of colours, while the more expensive systems pack an active matrix, and are noticeably more brilliant and sharp. …

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