Consider some of the newest features in today’s laptop models. While most of the "hype" advertising around laptops lately has been the "bigger screens" such as Toshiba’s new 10 pound, 17-inch-screen Satellite P25 (gosh, does it come with a wheelbarrow?), a significant segment of the laptop industry has headed for the other end of the spectrum with a variety of ultralights. IBM’s Thinkpad T series, Dell’s D600 and Gateway’s 200XL models all weigh in under 5 pounds or so, putting powerful processors in extremely portable profiles that any sore-shouldered salesperson can appreciate. For years I have argued that weight is more important than processing power; the fastest laptop will be left at home because it’s heavy and useless compared to a slower, portable model. Pleasantly, today’s thin-and-light models make both possible and add a bunch of new features, too.
Take for example a simple improvement: More USB ports. Most light laptops today feature two and sometimes three USB ports to accommodate the way PDAs, printers, cameras and scanners now connect. In many cases, more USB ports means less cords to carry, since some devices can draw power over the USB cord - so agents don’t have to carry two cords for each device they wish to connect to their laptop. More USB ports also means less “legacy” ports – older printer and serial ports are disappearing from laptops, allowing them to be designed in thinner, less bulky cases - not to mention that powered USB ports allow devices like PDAs and cell phones to be recharged from the laptop, oftentimes while on the road.
Another important enhancement in laptops is the evolution of the new Pentium M Centrino processors from Intel. These Pentium-4 class processors provide lots of power for sophisticated applications at the same time they achieve improvements in battery life. By creating a laptop-smart processor, and not just sticking desktop processors into smaller cases as they did in the past, Intel has engendered an entire class of long-life laptops, some reaching upwards of five hours of operation on a single battery. As video screens become brighter and more gadgets draw power from the laptop directly (see USB ports above), longer battery life has been an essential achievement in keeping laptops strong competitors with feature-rich PDAs.
Even parts of the laptop we have come to expect as standard features – like the CD drive and PCMCIA slots - have undergone some enhancements lately. CDRW drives, which have enabled users to write their own CDROMs in the past are quickly being replaced by DVD-RW drives. Whereas the CDRW could put 700 MB on a disc, DVD-RW drives can drop almost 5 GB onto a single disc. Such massive storage on a single disc greatly simplifies backups of large hard drives, as well as enabling larger presentations, complete with video, narration and special effects. In the past, DVD drives have been mostly luxuries on laptops, used mostly for entertainment. With the addition of affordable writable drives, the DVD becomes a power tool for everyday users who need mass storage as low as a few cents per disc!
Speaking of mass storage and easy transfer, let’s not forget the slight changes made to the laptop’s other slots: PCMCIA slots, or "pc-card" slots which traditionally were used to add specialty accessories like a wireless networking card or cellular modem are being cut from the traditional two-slot-configurations to only one-slot. Partly, this is because wireless networking is now built into the motherboards of new laptops, enabling laptop users to get online in coffee shops, airports, any room of the office and even sitting next to the pool at home. With the wireless connection built in, the extra pc-card slot has been replaced with a new "smart media" slot designed to complete the marriage between the laptop and popular accessories like cameras and PDAs. Rather than continue the tradition of connecting cameras and palm computers to laptops using a cord, the new smart media slot enables these devices to share information using a "memory stick" that fits in either device. Smart cards and memory sticks are the modern replacement for the floppy disk; they look like sticks of gum but they hold 32, 64 or 128 times the amount of data the poor old floppy disk can handle. Laptop users get a huge benefit by using smart media transfers: they can snap photos or update their schedule on their PDA, then instantly transfer them to the laptop by inserting the small memory stick into the new media slot. Best of all, the memory stick operates like a "smart floppy" that simply appears under MY COMPUTER as an extra drive: users drag and drop files between the stick and the laptop hard drive without needing to learn any new software or skills!
A quick look at today’s new laptop models reveals how busy computer engineers have been this year. From major reductions in size and weight to minor changes like integrating wireless networking and slipping in a few new slots, laptops have undergone some fairly important refinements to their portability and functionality. For busy real estate agents, the reality of owning just one computer –a laptop – that handles every accessory, connects to the internet anywhere and is light enough to carry all day long makes the possibility of improved sales performance more likely than ever.
This article was authored by Matthew Ferrara of Matthew Ferrara Seminars Inc.
Reprinted with permission of Matthew Ferrara Seminars Inc.