As you are about to leave the office for a 10 o’clock business appointment with that important client, you do a quick checklist to ensure that you have everything. You open your briefcase and there it is — your notebook. Yes, you have everything.
For most business people, that one piece of equipment holds every needed bit of information required to perform their job outside of the office.
According to Peter Bassani, an account executive with Markham, Ont.-based A.C. Nielsen Market Research, the portable computing market has changed drastically in the last five years. The changes have resulted in improved technology enhancements and price performance.
“You can look at the features of the product and one obvious (improvement) is the power of the portable,” says Bassani. “It is basically equal to that of today’s desktop, whereas five years ago the portable tended to be perhaps years or maybe two years behind the power of a desktop.”
Other improvements made to the portable computer are longer battery life and better screen technology.
Drew Fernandes, vice-president and senior investment advisor for Nesbitt Burns Inc., a brokerage firm located in White Rock, B.C., says competitive demands more than anything else made the company go with the portable computer last year for four of its 12 stockbrokers.
Nesbitt Burns is implementing a project called Genisys, a system which incorporates Windows 95, Office 95, Nesbitt Burns’ internal client database, and Starquote, an internal quote system to access the stock market.
“It is going to take a lot of our client data as well as stock market data and allow us to access it through our portables,” says Fernandes. “It also allows (stockbrokers) to work out of remote locations and still service our clients just like we would in our office, in any city.”
Before going mobile, the company had to rely on an old wire service to get pricing to complete a customer’s transaction. It would only take a few minutes, but in the brokerage business that’s an eternity.
Each client account would have to be printed out and filed. “You would literally have this wooden box with all of this paper on your desk,” recalls Fernandes.
Today, all a stockbroker has to do is go into his or her portable computer and all of the daily transactions for any client’s accounts are automatically recorded into the system. All the needed information shows up on the screen in an instant.
“The productivity gains in our business have gone right through the roof,” says Fernandes. “Brokers are doing three to four times more business because they now have the time. The technology has increased the amount of knowledge that is out there and it speeds up the transaction process.”
A study conducted by Frost & Sullivan, an international research firm based in Cambridge, Mass., predicts that world sales of portable computers will more than double from $30 billion (U.S.) in 1995 to nearly $80 billion (U.S.) by the year 2001. One reason is that business people are travelling and telecommuting more than they ever did before.
The study also indicates that the notebook market is expected to grow as twice as fast as desktop computers.
“People will pay premium prices for a portable,” says Bassani. “It allows them to have access to any needed information at any time. The desktop can be limiting because you have to be in your office in order to use it. With today’s business demands, not everyone can work from the office.”
Also not every job that requires the functionality of a computer is in an office. Recently, Quebec’s Sherbrooke Police Force equipped all 27 of its police cars with Latitude XPIs, 75-MHz Pentium machines from Dell Computer Corp.
“The (portable) is used for a multiple of services,” says Andr Bouchard, director of the Public Safety Division for the Sherbrooke Police Force. “The two main purposes it is used for are for transferring information to a central data centre and for onboard mapping.”
Before the portable units arrived, officers used terminals that could not be removed from the cars. The terminals’ only function was for entering data into the police force’s main data centre. Onboard mapping was not available. The laptops are rugged, and thus far the only issues have been some need for laptop data recovery, ably provided by Irvine, CA’s Hard Drive Recovery Associates.
Today, onboard mapping lets the station know the location of the police officer at all times in case of danger. Officers can also respond to calls more efficiently, enter information into the main data centre and receive information from it as well — an important tool when police are tracking a suspect.
On a scale of one to 10, Bassani rates the portable “around an eight or nine and for some people it is a 10. Some people swear by it, they can’t live without their notebook. It is at the top end for those that need a computer on the road or those that need electronic access on the road.”