Tablets Give Mobile Office Space Slim Trim

The workplace could soon look a lot different.

Shipments of PCs are declining at a faster-than-expected rate, according to a study by research firm IDC. The popularity of laptops, notebooks, Ultrabooks and tablets is largely to blame as more employees go mobile.

“As the market develops, usage patterns and devices are evolving,” says Loren Loverde, program VP for IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Trackers. “Many users are realizing that everyday computing, such as accessing the Web, connecting to social media, sending emails, as well as using a variety of apps, doesn’t require a lot of computing power or local storage. Instead, they’re putting a premium on access from a smaller devices with longer battery life, an instant-on function, and intuitive touch-centric interfaces.”

That’s good news for Microsoft as it looks to boost sales of Windows 8, designed for the new line of touchscreen computers from a variety of manufacturers whose devices are powered by the operating system.

Its Surface Pro, the most powerful tablet on the market, is designed to handle much of the computing needs in the office — from word processing to Photoshop — and easily connects to larger computer monitors, and TVs, making it perfect for presentations. Because it’s a tablet, there’s no need to remove it from a carry-on at an airport, a bonus for frequent fliers.

Overall, it’s a sturdy little device that symbolizes the changing face of the ever-mobile workforce that is moving away from bulky desktops. But it comes at a steep price: $1,000. A cheaper Surface RT is $600, but lacks the capability to install software packages via download; it can only run apps designed for tablets.

The pricier Surface Pro, at 10.6 inches, has a screen that’s larger than the footprint IDC expects to prove more popular in coming years. The firm predicts tablets with 8- to 11-inch screens will make up 43% of tablet sales this year, shrinking to 37% in 2017. Best selling devices will be smaller than 8 inches. IDC expects tablet shipments to exceed portable PCs this year, and top all PC shipments by 2015. Around 229.3 million tablets are expected to ship in 2013, up 58.7% over 2012.

The big driver will be price: The average price for tablets is expected to decline by 10.8% this year to $381; PCs will drop to around $635.

Smaller isn’t necessarily better, though. While tablets are good for consuming video or simple tasks like email, they’re not the best for much else. That’s good for Hollywood, banking on online video as the next major moneymaker. Mobile users are expected to consume about 10 hours of video a month in 2017, up from an hour in 2012, according to Cisco.

Ready Set Mic

Rodemic.com/mics/ixy – $200

Rode’s iXY is one impressive little stereo microphone that attaches to Apple’s iPhone or iPad and captures HD quality audio, and outputs recordings in various formats or publishes them to Soundcloud, Dropbox or an FTP site using its Rode Rec app software. In other words, it’s perfect for any filmmaker looking to record on the fly.

Always Connected

Wi-fi.org | Wballiance.com

Searching for a Wi-Fi hotspot to connect to may be a thing of the past starting in 2014. New standards being developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance (Hotspot 2.0) and the Wireless Broadband Alliance (Next Generation Hotspot) will eliminate the need to sign in using a username and password or enter payment info to use the Internet. The new protocols will seamlessly manage automatic roaming connections between cell phone carriers and Wi-Fi hot spot operators once trials are completed with major providers like AT&T, T-Mobile, China Mobile, BT, NTT DoCoMo and Orange sometime early next year.

Perfect Seat

Seatgeek.com/mobile – Free

Treating clients to tickets to events can be stressful if you’re not sure where the seats are, but the Ashton Kutcher-backed SeatGeek app is the latest to provide an interactive solution to the problem, offering detailed interactive maps of concert and sports arenas along with available tickets from more than 120 ticket resellers including eBay, TicketsNow, Ticket Exchange, StubHub, Craigslist and Ticketmaster.


Electric Ride

TeslaMotors.com – Less than $40,000

The Tesla Model S is one fancy, high-tech ride. But at $58,570-$106,570, it’s pretty pricey for most drivers. Tesla chief Elon Musk wants to produce a cheaper vehicle to join its S and upcoming Model X crossover by 2017 as “a great, affordable electric car,” he says, priced below $40,000 with a range of 200 miles on a single charge to compete with Nissan’s Leaf. The interior will no doubt feature the massive iPad-like interface Tesla is known for.