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Tech View
John Agsalud

Do you really need to
take that laptop?

As many of us who live in the middle of the sea know, business travel sounds glamorous and exciting, unless you actually have to do it for a living.

We know the drill, we're road warriors ... and no, we're not going to change our name to Road Rainbows or Road Golden Eagles.

Pack up your "mainland clothes," and above all, don't forget to set up your laptop. Make sure you've got all the documents you're going to need on your hard drive. Test the remote access to the company network; who knows what's changed since you last went on the road. Be prepared to show off your hardware to every TSA agent you might encounter.

But wait just a second. Do you really need to lug the laptop? What exactly are you going to use it for?

Sure, the more industrious of us pound out documents or presentations in the airport lounge or on the plane while the vacationers slam down gin and tonics. But let's face it, if your upgrade hasn't come through, it's pretty hard to get any work done on your laptop in today's standard coach seat.

Of course, if you're going to a client's or colleague's site with the intent of collaborating on electronic files, then, in this day and age it is expected that you show up with your laptop. But if you're going to a conference or a series of meetings, what will you really use your laptop for? Probably just to check and respond to e-mail, and perhaps to access the Internet to get maps or figure out where to have dinner. Be honest, are you really going to get much else done?

Under these circumstances, so-called "converged mobile devices" are more than adequate for most business trips. The best units combine phone, e-mail that can be synchronized with your company account, Web access, secure data access to the corporate network and other applications.

Two brands of converged devices dominate the market. The patriarch of this generation of devices is 's BlackBerry. Although rudimentary compared with the current release, the early BlackBerrys were the first widely available personal devices that provided wireless access to e-mail.

A strong competitor to the BlackBerry is the Treo SmartPhone, a product of palmOne Inc. Based on the Palm Pilot, the granddaddy of all handheld devices, the Treo provides similar functionality to the BlackBerry.

Both the BlackBerry and Treo platforms can be synchronized with your corporate e-mail. BlackBerry supports Microsoft Exchange, Novell Groupwise or Lotus Notes, but requires a separate server to facilitate connectivity. Treo provides built-in synchronization with Exchange 2003. Treo also supports other versions of Exchange and Lotus Notes, but requires separate software to be purchased. A competent e-mail administrator ought to be able to easily configure the corporate mail server to support either of these platforms.

John Agsalud is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy. Call him at 944-8742 or e-mail jagsalud@isdi-hi.com.

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