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10 trends driving technology in and out the door.

One of the hottest topics in the business press these days, if not the hottest, is portable technology. It seems every publication you pick up has something on the subject. Does this subject merit so much attention? After all, who needs portable technology if you aren't in sales? Aren't they really just yuppie toys?

If these questions have crossed your mind you're not alone. But regardless of what you think, all indicators point to the fact that portable technology is here to stay.

So what has transformed portable technology from a fad to what will soon be a permanent fixture in and out of the office? I recently posed this question to some of the product managers at Panasonic (Matsushita Electric of Canada). The company's industrial group markets notebook computers, cellular phones and pagers and its consumer group sells microcassette recorders, portable cassettes, CD players and portable VCR/televisions.

From my discussions, I was able to pinpoint 10 key trends that are "driving technology out the door".

The push for

greater productivity

Businesses are always exploring ways to be more get more things done in a shorter period of time. And portable technology enables them to do just that, from the cellular phone to make those last few calls on the way home, to the microcassette in which to dictate notes, to the portable computer that enables you to keep on working once you do get home.

The work hard,

work smart ethic

Thanks to portable technology this work ethic is alive and kicking. Armed with a notebook computer and an internal modem you can take your work home along with the equivalent of several filing cabinets worth of data on a handful of floppy disks. You can also access an unlimited supply of data by accessing your local area network back at the office or any one of a number of on-line systems - both public and private.

With the abundance of portable technology now available, you're only limited by your own ingenuity. A prime example given by Jim Dunbar, manager of Panasonic's pager products is the use of pagers in tandem with cellular phones. "If you're in the middle of a meeting, you don't want a portable phone to be constantly ringing. With a pager that flashes or vibrates, you can politely excuse yourself and follow up on the call from your car phone without disrupting the meeting."


for better service

One reason why companies are pushing to work smarter and be more productive is that customers expect and demand better service.

For example, an increasing number of businesses are going directly to the customer to promote their product or service. This is an added service to the customer because he no longer has to endure the hassles of travelling to and from meetings.

And businesses making this transition from making a presentation on their own turf, to taking their presentations with them are embracing portable technology in a big way. They're running graphic presentations on their notebook computers and more recently, video presentations on their portable VCR/televisions.


staggered hours & workdays,

traffic congestion, high

downtown rent

People now want to spend more time with their families and less time in the office while still being productive. With portable technology you can leave the office at a more reasonable hour and catch up on many of the tasks you were unable to get to there - from phone calls to computing to dictation.

One of the reasons for the trend towards cocooning is people are tired of fighting traffic. From the employee's perspective, many would prefer to work staggered hours and possibly even break up their work week. For example, they might work three days in the office and two days at home. More and more employers are willing to go along with staggered hours, or days, because of the high cost of rent in downtown areas. If less people are in the office at the same time, less floor space is needed. All of these trends - cocooning, staggered hours, traffic congestion and skyhigh rent have indirectly fuelled the demand for portable technology.



Advances in communications technology is another factor behind the demand for portable technology. With current satellite technology, the sky is (ironically) no longer the limit. It's now possible to communicate with others by telephone virtually wherever you are...on the road in a car (and also away from the car), from a boat out on the water and in an airborne jet. And in most places where there's no phone, you can also transmit data using a notebook computer.


Miniaturization is a trend we now seem to take for granted.

For example, today's business gladiator, armed with the best the industry has to offer, can now throw his notebook computer in his briefcase (with room to spare),his cellular phone in one breast pocket, a microcassette in the other breast pocket and for added security, sling a portable VCR/television over his shoulder... and walk out the door with every confidence that he is prepared for virtually every challenge that befalls him. Without the major downsizing of electronic components over the past decade, this scenario would be nothing more than a pipe dream.

Interestingly enough, some products have reached the point where it's not practical to make them any smaller. It has been found that the optimum size for a computer is 8 1/2" x 11", small enough to carry in a briefcase yet not so small that it interferes with typing ability. Changes to the next generation of notebooks will focus not on down-sizing but on making the machines lighter and improving performance.

The paperless office

The paperless office is not quite here, but portable technology has certainly diminished the need for paper. One product that's doing its part to keep the environmentalists happy, is the ever dependable microcassette recorder. People are using these handy little machines for a lot more these days than dictating memos and letters. Aside from dictation, managers are using these machines to record personal reminders, "to do" lists, minutes of meetings with customers, and other activities where pen and paper would have been used in the past.

If you were to distil these 10 trends into one underlying reason for the proliferation of portable technology, you'd come up with the same answer as you would with any other popular product or service... market demand.

Market demand is pulling portable technology along because it compliments all the changes that are taking place, both in the home and the office. As for companies like Panasonic - they're just doing what any company would do in the service industry. They're trying to give customers what they want.

Looking towards your own office environment, you may not be using portable technology in a big way - or expect to be in the foreseeable future. But sooner or later, don't be surprised if the trends discussed in this article drive portable technology in...and out your door.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Canadian Institute of Management
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:portable technology in the workplace
Author:Wessel, Mark
Publication:Canadian Manager
Date:Sep 22, 1991
Previous Article:Total Quality Management: rededicating management to customer satisfaction.
Next Article:Secrets of power presentations.

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