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Cheap Technology - for Small Enterprises

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.

So what's the connection? Why did these articles grab my attention?

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.

Yes - there are other free word processing, spreadsheet, email applications out there. And if you are looking for a free web browser - Mozilla Firefox is the way to go.

... 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!!


miss ashley said...

please tell me how modern technology has influenced the need for slimmer and flatter structures in the organization

Manny said...

Great question! Technology supports business functions today , that years ago would have to be done by people. This means that today's organizations can afford to be leaner. This also means that today's workforce needs to be more tech-savy.

Since writing the above article, there have been huge advances in this area. The merging of office and business applications, with Web 2.0 technologies, has allowed for more and more applications being available via software as a service (SaaS) technologies over the web. And so fewer people are needed to get the same work done, which makes your question a very interesting one as we look into the future.