Magazine article Marketing

On the Hi-Tech Trail

Magazine article Marketing

On the Hi-Tech Trail

Article excerpt

This year the Business Computing Show is bidding to attract a new audience. Marketing and sales people are the prime prospects. Ron Condon looks at some of those exhibiting

If you are one of those people who judge a show by the number of freebies on offer, then this week's Business Computing Show should not disappoint.

Without too much trouble you should finish the day carrying plenty of plastic bags chock-a-block with frisbees, cowboy hats, badges, cuddly toys - and possibly something more useful into the bargain. Most of the stands are running daily prize draws, and the prizes range from bits of software to complete computer systems.

But free gifts aside, the Business Computing Show this year is trying to broaden its appeal beyond the beard and open-toed sandal brigade (known as "propeller-heads") to people with no great interest in computers, but with real business problems to solve.

Richard Branson - with beard but no open-toed sandals - will be giving the opening keynote speech of the show, and he is unlikely to forget to mention his own new sortie into computing with Virgin Euromagnetics. The company has produced a range of nice-looking and well-priced PCs, which, Virgin claims, will hit new standards of greenness by saving on electricity and having recyclable packaging.

Quite what the other exhibitors will think of the keynote speech being used to plug a rival remains to be seen.

Sales and marketing people are prime prospects in the quest for a different audience, and the organisers have made it easy for you by devising a Sales and Marketing Solutions Trail to guide you through the show and spot relevant products and services.

But before sticking too rigidly to the tail, remember that most of the products at the show - from overhead displays, to word processing packages and portable computers - can find a role in a marketing department.

Portable computers take a fairly high profile on the trail, working on the assumption that sales and marketing people are mobile but need to have access to large amounts of information at the touch of a button.

There are also advances in communications, which makes it easier to stay in touch with colleagues via the computer system. And there will be plenty of new contact management software to help you plan your own day and that of your team.

Computerised mapping is also making big advances, and there are a couple of companies on the trail with new products to help marketers.

Some of the other companies on the trail, such as magazine Publishers and manufacturers of lnjection mouldings, have a rather more tenuous reason for being there. So visitors hoping to make the most of their time should do a bit of pre-planning to sift out the items that have ben truly devised for marketing professionals.

One good example is a small Swindon-based company called Vocom, which has put together a portable office for the business person on the move. The idea of putting a notebook computer, printer and modem into a briefcase is not new in itself, but the Vocom approach seems to have been better thought out than most. Its Micro-office consists of a briefcase with Citizen printer built in, plus an NEC P4 phone that can link into the Cellnet or Vodafone networks. By connecting the phone to the in-built modem, you can send and receive data and faxes, from wherever you happen to be.

The clever piece about the design is that Vocom has stripped out the individual power supplies of the various elements and substituted a single power supply for the lot. This keeps the weight down and means there are far fewer cables to deal with.

The Micro-Office briefcase comes with straps to tie it into the passenger seat of your car, and it will plug into the cigar lighter socket. So if the batteries fail on your notebook computer or the phone, you should still be able to work. You have a choice of notebook from Compaq, Toshiba, AST or Sharp - but if you're ordering 50 or more, Vocom will customise the briefcase for you. …

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