Back to 12/96 Analysis: Explorer
Up to Table of Contents
Ahead to 12/96 Analysis: Dialog Box

12/96 Analysis: Windows at Work

Give Gifts That Pay You Back

Spend those leftover budget dollars on high-tech toys that will boost productivity.

By Cheryl Currid

It's that time of year again. Time to decorate your Windows with fun (but useful) products.

Year-end is a good time to introduce some innovative new gadgets into the workplace. For one thing, holiday time means downtime for a lot of corporate staffers. No one starts new projects and half the company is off for extended holidays, so there's time to pick up some new skills and do a little creative thinking. And you probably have a few discretionary dollars left in your annual budget. Buying some new high-tech gadgets is a low-cost, low-risk way to keep users thinking about how technology can help them do things better.

If you're game, here's my list of useful-and potentially productivity-boosting-technologies.

Remember your southpaw staffers. As a member of this silent minority, I've found new computing joy with Contour Design's left-handed ergonomic mouse ($89.95, 800-462-6678, 603-893-4556). For the first time, I have a mouse that fits me, and they'll have to pry it out of my prone fingers to get it back.

For those environments where a mouse won't do, try a foot pedal. I know it sounds strange, but some users literally have their hands full trying to type with a phone in one hand and a sheaf of papers in the other. A foot pedal may be just the thing they need to kick productivity into high gear. To get their toes tapping, wrap your mitts around Hunter Digital's NoHands Mouse ($199.95, 800-57-MOUSE, 310-471-5852).

Of course, they can't just stand there tapping, they need something to sit on. Lately, I've become a self-appointed team of one in search of the perfect office seating. Having a bad back, I've been looking for a comfortable chair for uninterrupted multi-hour Web surfing. So far, one of my favorites comes from healthcare industry supplier Ergo Air ($499, 800-559-9856, 603-889-4790). The company's ErgoDynamic Seating system tops any office chair with an air-filled cushion. An adjustable pump automatically moves the seating position every 2.5 minutes. I've remained in my seat for hours without a trace of pain.

To soothe users' Web-weary, bloodshot eyes, treat them to a new-generation color printer. I did a double take when I saw the laser-like pages that emerged from Tektronix's new Phaser 350 solid wax printer ($3,495, 800-835-6100). Its color quality exceeds that of a laser printer, at a faster speed and a lower price. It prints on just about any paper, so there are no hidden costs. At 5 cents per page for color ink (the black ink is free), almost anyone can afford to produce eye-catching hard copy.

Ink jet fans will appreciate Hewlett-Packard's new DeskJet 820 ($486) and 870 ($499) series color printers (800-752-0900, 408-246-4300). The 820Cse, which takes full advantage of Windows 95 Plug-and-Play features, offers a 150-sheet paper tray, an envelope feeder and printing speeds of six pages per minute. A nifty feature of the 870 is its two-sided printing capability.

Hand warmers

For Windows productivity you can hold in your hands, check out the new breed of Windows-based personal digital assistants (PDAs). As I write this, several familiar PC makers are announcing entries in this market. (See Mike Elgan's November Explorer column and this month's What's Hot.)

Running on a slimmed-down version of Windows known as Windows CE, these units can hold everything from your daily calendar to spreadsheets and documents. What's more, they synchronize with network servers, desktops and notebooks. The ease of use, communications features and update capabilities of these units represent a quantum leap over first-generation PDAs. At $499 to $699, you'll want one of your own.

While you're on the road, don't forget to bring protection-power protection, that is. American Power Conversion's SurgeArrest Notebook protector (800-800-4272, 401-789-5735) is a perfect under-$30 stocking stuffer for road warriors. Weighing in at less than 5 ounces and requiring only a few inches of suitcase space, this unit will protect your notebook and modem from power or phone-line disturbances.

I'm out of space, but not ideas. For more suggestions, check out my Web site at Happy holidays!

WinMag Analyst Cheryl Currid is president of Houston-based Currid & Company, a research and consulting firm. Contact Cheryl in the "Windows at Work" topic of WINDOWS Magazine's areas on America Online and CompuServe, or at

Back to 12/96 Analysis: Explorer
Up to Table of Contents
Ahead to 12/96 Analysis: Dialog Box