The summer is rapidly approaching and so is the time when vendors bring out their shiny new products for the holiday season. CIO Australia went looking for senior IT executives help us test the latest innovative technology products, both for the CIOs themselves and the employees they support and manage.
The staff at CIO made a bunch of phone calls and recruited the help of our sister publications PC World and The Good Gear Guide, to obtain as many cool, fun and useful gadgets for home and office computing that we could find. Then we invited a select group of senior IT executives to get together over lunch to test the products and give them the CIO stamp of approval — or not.
On the day a good time was had by all. There were tech tools and toys for the executive on the move, at the office or at home, including the latest smart phones, netbooks, laptops, digital cameras, webcams and more.
Windows 7 was on display, and there was much anticipation voiced among the CIOs for getting "hands on" with the new touchscreen systems Microsoft's latest operating system supports — but alas not were available in Australia for CIO to get a hold one in time for the event.
Top honours on the day went to the BenQ Joybee GP1 mini projector, whose small size and low cost immediately caught the eye of CIOs from several different industries, all of whom saw it as an excellent low-cost yet highly-portable option for equipping workers ranging from mobile salespeople to teachers spread out over a large university campus.
The next most popular device with without a doubt the Wacom tablet, which impressed all present with its ability to turn handwriting into documents. As one CIO pointed out, it and similar tablets, have a very real potential to replace keyboards and mice as the dominant way to interface with the systems of the future.
The iPhone: Love it, Hate it
Perhaps the most surprising — and interesting story — story to emerge on the day is the love/hate relationship so many CIOs have with Apple's iPhone. Most acknowledge it as the standard to which other phones aspire and even own and use them with enthusiasm.
However, as CIOs who must keep their businesses running securely and efficiently, the problems presented by supporting the device in an enterprise environment are simply to much to overcome. Despite it's ubiquity in everyday society, and despite it's many innovative features, the iPhone has been all but banned by most corporate workplaces.
"When I look at smartphones, I tend to compare the interface to the iPhone. It’s the benchmark for me," said Warren Don, CIO at the Australian Red Cross. "I’m finding that the interfaces on the phones here are just not quite there. The touchscreens are getting there but they are still not as good as the interface on the iPhone."
But, like many other CIOs, Don can't use the iPhone in his organisation. "The Apple device itself is unsupportable for me in a corporate environment," he says. "Too many things happen to them that need a lot of support."
For the CIOs attending the motto seemed to be "everything new is old again" and many remarked upon how this year's crop of devices showed little genuine innovation or inspiration. Perhaps that accounts for the popularity of retro-looking items such as Pure's EVOKE Flow digital radio and its Art Deco styling.
Then again, perhaps the vendors, suffering from the global downturn as much as anyone and mindful of how consumers have been cutting back on spending, preferred to play it safe this year and not stray too far from vanilla products in traditional markets.
As David Fryda, IT director at Macquarie University put it, "Most of the stuff here today is just continuing on with generational improvements. There's no killer new bit of innovation sitting on the table here today... The phones are still phones and the cameras are still cameras — we haven't seen the next iPhone-type innovation come along over the last twelve months."
BenQ Joybee GP1 mini projector
BenQ's Joybee GP1 is a nifty little projector, with a native resolution higher than DVD quality and a reasonable light output given its tiny size. The non-standard resolution might annoy some users, but our CIOs didn't seem have a problem with it.
Audio & Speakers: Number of speakers1; Audio Type: Mono; Total audio output power (Watts RMS): 2
Display: Contrast Ratio: 2000; Brightness (ANSI Lumens): 100
General: Length: 120mm; Width: 136mm; Height: 57mm; Weight: 640g; Colours: Gloss Black, White; Warranty: 12 months Power Supply: AC Power
Projector Options: Image Size: Diagonal 80in; Focus: Manual; Audible Noise: 28 decibels
Supported Media: Audio File Formats: MP3; Video File Formats: MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, WMV; Picture File Formats: JPEG
Wired Connections: Wired Terminals/Ports: VGA, Composite Video Output
What's Hot: Good image quality, 80-inch maximum screen size
What's Not: Non-standard resolution of 858x600 pixels
What the CIOs said:
"I was most impressed by the BenQ projector. If I had seen that six months ago we would have had it. The fact that it is so small and so portable and it still does the job, I am very impressed with that." — Warren Don, CIO, Australian Red Cross
"The projector's small size makes it a useful tool to add to the mobile presenter's arsenal. The image was reasonable when viewed in a moderately lit boardroom, but the proprietary connector to VGA/Composite connector can be a bit fiddly. When video was played from a connected Windows netbook the image was quite smooth." — Andrew Glassock, Manager Information Systems, IDG Australia
"Obviously, it's chalk and cheese between this and your large corporate devices, but the concept is a good one and I'm sure they'll continue to improve the quality. I don't have a mobile sales force but we do have a situation at the uni where we have a very large campus and the idea of having projectors in every room is a costly one. To find a way of addressing that, maybe with a device like this, would be useful." — David Fryda, director of IT Services, Macquarie University
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