Two articles caught my eye in this week's edition of BusinessWeek: The Next Cheap Thing and More To Life Than The Office. What these articles talk about are two ideas that have been around for a long time - that were perhaps ahead of their time.
"The Next Cheap Thing" talks about the use of 'thin client' devices, consisting of not much more than a keyboard, a mouse and a monitor that are linked to a 'server' with the capacity run the require applications and store data - remotely from the device. In this article, Stephen Dukker of NComputing talks about the price devices dropping from around $50 to the point where the "hardware would be essentially free". There are plenty of competitors out there in this market too.
"More To Life Than The Office" discusses Microsoft Office's rivals in the office productivity market. MS Office's (Word, Excel, Outlook, & Powerpoint) dominance in the market at around 95%, is being challenged by others that are competing on price and features.
These articles talk about how wonderful this cheap technology is for non-profits, schools, etc. And that is all great, but how do we apply these technologies to commercial enterprises.
Large commercial enterprises would not be interested in moving away from MS Office ... in the short term. MS Office would just be too hard (and expensive) to replace in most places. Not to mention that many comparable products are simply not good enough to fully replace the full suite of MS products used in most larger companies. However, the 'thin client' solution may have applications with certain company locations.
However, what I have seen of many small businesses, is that they simply need an easy to use cheap solution that does the job. A combination of a thin client set up with it's advantages, and suite of applications that support basic office functionality (Internet, email, word processing, spreadsheets, & presentation graphics) will provide a technology platform that will enable small business processes to be automated and thus drive improvement.
Check out a few options out there for cheap office applications:
- OpenOffice: Free office suite from Sun MicroSystems with about 40 million users worldwide.
- Ajax13: Free collection of Web applications that support some office requirements. Still early stages - but watch these guys, they are gaining about 10,000 new users per day (according to the BusinessWeek print edition)
- IBM Workplace: IBM's suite of office products with about 1 million users. Costs around $69.
... so with some creativity and know-how, you can maximize your productivity while minimizing your investment and cost of doing business.
. ... Now that sounds quite entrepreneurial - just what small business is about!!