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Digital Juggling is a Serious Business

Digital Juggling is a Serious Business: Portable computing devices mean productivity for insurers on the go.

(Reprinted from Best's Review)

Notebook computers are typically slower, less feature-rich and more expensive than desktop computers. So it may be surprising to hear that more than 10 years ago I ditched my desktop computer in favor of a notebook?despite the fact that I need ample processing power in my work as the head of an insurance-agency software company.

While speed is king, portability cannot be sacrificed. Today, all three computers that I use regularly are portable devices.

For instance, my main computer?a 15? widescreen Thinkpad notebook?is fast and loaded with features. While quite heavy, it is still portable. At work and in my home office, I have duplicate docking stations with the same large monitors, keyboards and mice. With just a click of the notebook into the docking station, users still can get the full-size desktop workstation experience needed to put in long, productive hours.

Occasionally I dock and use the machine as the notebook it was intended to be. It?s been used for demonstrations and presentations, and on extended trips when all office tools were required. Unfortunately, the short battery life means that I?m almost always tethered to an AC outlet.

To avoid having to lug around a 10-pound-plus laptop bag, some in the industry are finding that the new Toshiba netbook fits the bill perfectly. It runs the recently released Windows 7, and is a smaller, lighter, lower-powered and lower-cost version of a notebook computer. The netbook has limited expansion options and is not designed for heavy-duty use. Measuring under 8-by-10 inches and weighing less than three pounds, it is perfect for traveling if someone needs the processing power of a full-sized computer.

While it likely won?t be used full-time, a netbook is a perfect tool for insurers on the go. For instance, it comes in handy at multi-day conferences, especially in cramped, mostly power-outlet-free conference rooms. It can easily run on battery power for several hours while users check e-mail, reference Web sites and take notes.

Smart phones also are gaining traction in the insurance industry. Earlier this year, I acquired my first smart phone?a Droid X. That move was a decision I struggled with for some time because I felt the tiny screens and even tinier keys were awkward for entering text, browsing or doing anything other than making a phone call. But the iPhone and Droid have changed all that. With larger screens, touch interfaces and more capabilities, smart phones have become truly usable.

Users usually are left wondering how they ever survived without being constantly connected and having e-mail, the Web, an electronic calendar and GPS right in their pocket.

Portability equals productivity. If you and your organization need computing power to go, you likely need more than one device.

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