New Today, Obsolete Tomorrow: Devices to keep your business on the cutting edge

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Ever have the feeling that your business equipment became obsolete as soon you opened the box? You?re not alone. Technology doesn?t stand still. By the time you get done showing off your new gadget to your colleagues, a newer model is staring at you from the other side of a store window. If you?re in the market for a technology upgrade for your desk or your vest pocket, you?re in luck. Many hardware and software makers have revised their product lines in order to keep up with a very competitive office technology market. TNJ checked out the offerings in four essential equipment categories to help you keep your business on the cutting edge of technology.

Laser printers

Samsung Electronics America Inc.?s svelte ML-1740 monochrome laser printer prints up to 17 pages per minute, offers a 250-page paper tray and a single-sheet feeder in the front, yet retails for a suggested price of just $149.99. The top resolution of 600 by 600 dots per inch (dpi) is enough for most business needs.

Samsung?s new CLP-550 and CLP-550N color laser printers use Samsung?s unique static printing engine which features few moving parts, a design that allows it to run more quietly than most. Most color lasers rotate four toner cartridges over the printing paper. Samsung reverses this model, rotating the paper instead of the toner. The unit has a built-in duplexer, which means you can print both sides of a sheet of paper without sending it through the printer twice. Many printers require an extra-cost accessory to get this feature. The price for the unit had not been set at press time, but the printer will come with a year of free on-site service.

Cell phones

Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications recently introduced new cell phones that blur the line between phones and cameras. The Sony Ericsson S700 even looks like a camera when held sideways. It has a 1.3-megapixel camera with an 8X digital zoom lens and can use Sony Memory Sticks for removable data storage. Unfortunately, the phone won?t debut until the fall and won?t reach the United States until sometime afterward.

The Sony Ericsson Z500, another camera phone, will also arrive in the United States by fall. The phone supports the new EDGE standard for wireless data, which means you can download files from your office network at up to 240 kilobits per second (kbps), far faster than you can with a standard 56kbps phone modem and almost as fast as you can with a cable or digital subscriber line (DSL) modem, which usually have a minimum speed of 384 kbps. The Z500 also has a push-to-talk button so that you can use the walkie-talkie services offered by some cell phone companies. Its digital camera can take VGA-resolution images (640 by 480 pixels), which are sharp enough for use on the Web, but not for, say, a 4 by 6-inch print. The Z500 works on the 850, 1800 and 1900 megahertz GSM
(Global System for Mobile Communications) frequencies, which means that the phone will work in many countries worldwide.

Global positioning/street mapping

If you?re too proud to ask for directions when you?re lost, Belkin Corp.?s Bluetooth GPS Receiver may be able to help you find your way. You?ll need a notebook or handheld computer that already has a Bluetooth wireless networking adapter built in or connected to it. Bluetooth networking lets you wirelessly connect devices like cell phones, handheld computers and printers as long as they?re within 30 feet of each other. The $299 Belkin Bluetooth GPS unit receives tracking signals from 12 GPS satellites around the globe. Using the street mapping software that comes with the unit, you can track your progress on the highway as you drive. Since the unit communicates with your computer wirelessly, you can leave it in the glove compartment or in the trunk.

Financial management

If you still keep your business?s books in a pen-and-paper ledger, you?re ready for a software solution. The 2004 version of Intuit Inc.?s QuickBooks financial management software comes in different versions for different-size businesses. QuickBooks Pro 2004 comes in Basic ($199.95; upgrade from previous version $99.95) Pro and Pro for Mac ($299.95; upgrade $199.95); Premier ($499.95; upgrade $379.95), Enterprise Solutions ($3,500) and Online Editions (from $19.95 per month). Most editions allow you to download your bank statements into the software, thus saving you from having to manually enter each transaction. QuickBooks comes with templates for many different kinds of businesses, but you can rename and edit the accounting categories as you see fit,