Commentary

On Technology

By Phil Baker

The EmTek Fund wins award but may lose budget fight

The EmTek Fund, San Diego's innovative venture loan program targeting early stage growth companies, has made 15 investments ranging from $100,000 to $250,000 totaling $2.5 million since its inception in 1996. These loans have leveraged an additional $18.5 million of outside investments and have created 170 jobs.

Apple's iPod mini is big

The Apple iPod has changed the way people buy and listen to music. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) now sells 70 percent of all online music and 50 percent of all MP3 players. In a move to maintain its lead, Apple has introduced the iPod mini, its smallest and lowest cost iPod yet at $249.

Better high-tech gadgetry

Of the many products I look at, here are three recent favorites.

Three new options for pocket-sized digital cameras

I've been trying out three recently introduced cameras ideal for travelers or those that always want to carry a camera with them. They are the Canon S410 ($399), the Olympus Stylus 410 ($349), and the Pentax S40 ($299).

Google's New Gmail

Frustrated trying to find a piece of information you know is on your computer somewhere? As our hard drives grow in size and we accumulate more data, the ability to quickly search for data is an important need; a need that's not being met by Windows or Macintosh. While some of us may have the discipline to organize, save and discard documents and files as we work, most don't bother. It takes time away from immediate, more pressing work and it becomes more difficult to do with all of the disparate data and e-mail we accumulate.

Staying connected around the world

I've been doing quite a bit of international traveling over the past few months and have tried a variety of options to keep in touch, both by phone and e-mail. I have found that U.S. carriers are lagging behind their counterparts in Europe and the Far East in offering low-cost international dialing while traveling.

E-radio to go

Internet radio has been around for a number of years, but with the increased availability of broadband, and with more commercial stations going online, it's become much more accessible and practical. There are no geographic restrictions. You can listen to a station in your hometown or to a syndicated show that's not broadcast in the local area. On a recent trip to China I listened to some of my favorite West Coast stations, just as if I were at home. And they were a lot more interesting and varied than the repetitious CNN on the hotel's TV. The only requirement is having broadband access.

Two for the road

While returning from a business trip I bumped into a friend at the San Diego airport, and seeing my large computer bag, he joked that I must be carrying a printer along with my computer. Well, that was the one thing that was not in the bag, but it got me thinking about portable printers. With all the miniaturization of notebooks, what's happening with portable printers?

Customer disservice

Are you tired of waiting on hold for 30 minutes only to reach a customer service agent who can't help? Welcome to the world of poor customer service, in which companies could care less once the sale is made. It's as if the companies that sell us products think they're doing us a favor by letting us be their customers. There are three aspects to good customer service: How easily you can reach the company, their ability to quickly solve your problem, and being treated fairly and with respect.

The smallest IBM ThinkPad yet

IBM ThinkPads have earned a reputation for being solid, reliable notebooks, although a little pricey. With the recently introduced X40, the smallest and lightest ThinkPad yet, IBM (NYSE: IBM) offers a great product at a bargain price.

The best of the Treo add-ons

The Treo 600 smart phone is an example of how a single product can create a mini-economy, benefiting palmOne (Nasdaq: PLMO), the company that sells it, as well as the many companies creating products and services for it.

What to do about outsourcing

Outsourcing has become a hot topic during the current presidential campaign. It's being blamed for our high unemployment rate and the lack of job creation.

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Phil Baker

Phil Baker is an expert in new product development and market development for large and small companies. He has held senior product development and marketing positions with Apple, Polaroid, Seiko, Proxima, ...

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