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Affordable SMB Productivity Tools

At two events in New York City, 140+ vendors showed off new productivity-enhancing headsets, printers, webcams and more, that fit SMB and consumer budgets (Part 1 of 2).
At two events in New York City, 140+ vendors showed off new productivity-enhancing headsets, printers, webcams and more, that fit SMB and consumer budgets (Part 1 of 2).For SMBs, who don't have to fit technology acquisitions into IT frameworks or purchasing bureaucracy, the ongoing firehose of new consumer/SOHO/SMB priced products and accessories in the $20 to $2,000 range represent opportunities to be early adopters, and get instead competitive, productivity and flexibility boosts.

Big shows like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) can be overwhelming, with thousands of vendors and tens of thousands of products. At the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association's CEA Line Shows held in New York City June 22 and 23, and the Pepcom "Digital Experience" multi-vendor press event on the evening of June 23, I saw a more manageable sixty to seventy vendors (per event), with tables rather than big booths, presenting recent, new and coming products ranging from HD webcams to web/cloud-enabled printers. Some are more aimed at consumers, entertainment and homeowners; some for the prosumer, professional and SOHO markets; some at both -- and many can easily and affordably benefit SMBs.

Here's the first of a two-part look at some of what I saw.

Peppy Peripherals Promote Productivity

Most of today's notebooks have built-in webcams, but not all, ditto most desktop computers. Logitech has announced an impressive new six-member family of HD webcams (MSRP from $39.99 to $99, available over the next few months), along with its Logitech Vid HD software, are just what you need for video calling and for one-click HD uploads to YouTube and Facebook (so be carefully when your hands are on the keyboard!).

HP's new web-enabled, "cloud-aware" ePrint printers will let you "Print from any email device to any new ePrint-enabled printer from anywhere in the world through the new HP ePrint platform" -- like, for example, from your smartphone (by associating an email address with the printer).

Need a portable document/book/etc scanner? VuPoint Solutions' half-pound SaveMe NetSmart software now supports fully-automatic backup of a NAS along with your computer.

Accessorizing For Flexibility, Convenience And More

The right tech accessories often make the difference between "no luck" and productivity (although they can bulk up your luggage all too easily).

I'm already a fan of Monster Cable's Outlets To Go Power Strip, a mini-power strip with three outlets spaced to handle wide AC adapters and a short power cord that wraps around and tucks in neatly. Monster's new three-outlet Outlets To Go Laptop (MSRP $29.95) gets even smaller, eschewing the cord for a swing-out retractable plug, and adding two USB charging ports.

Batteries, Chargers and Power Accessories

Portable devices need power, so travelers need power accessories.

In addition to their Duracell myGrid wireless charging pads (a technology that I don't think will be a match for mobile until devices embed the components rather than needing add-ons, which strike me as "yet one more set of things to buy and lose"), Duracell was showing their pocket-sized LiON rechargeable Charger power pack family of Instant (MSRP $29.99, PowerHouse (MSRP $49.99) and Pocket (MSRP $19.99) for your smartphones and other mobile devices.

For devices like the Cisco Flip video which (can) use AA cells, I'm partial to the 15-minute chargers from Duracell, Energizer and Rayovac -- but these can be heavier and bulkier than traveler want to travel with. Duracell's new GoMobile Charger (MSRP $29.99) takes an hour, but the AC adapter is a svelter mini-brick, and there's also a car adapter -- and the four included 2000mAh AA batteries come pre-charged.

Storing power is all well and good, but off-grid users often to be able to create some. At 1.5-pound, you won't carry it in your pocket, but Solar Components' JOOS Orange "personal solar appliance" (MSRP $99.95, currently slated to be shipping in September) claims to a step up in portable solar tech, working in lower and shadier light, and able to generate more power (5400 mA, up to 10-20 watt-hours/day, depending on circumstances). With its replaceable 20-watt-hour LiON battery, you can accumulate those sunny electronics for later use, too.

Coming up in Part 2: Phones/Mobile, Measuring AC Power Consumption, And A Dangdest Thing.

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