Notes from the Small Business Road

Small business computing from the road is still a challenge, but the tools keep getting better. Now, if AC availability would catch up, things could get truly good for the small business traveler. If travel weren't enough of a challenge, throw in a platform change, and you have the making of an interesting time -- at least, that's what I'm calling it today.

It's been a wild couple of weeks, with travel heading the list of craziness, but I'm now out on a remote job site (it's in Hawaii, so it's much better than most). My first blog post is looking at small business travel -– there are several points that I noticed on the trip –- with some ideas on how things could be made better for travelers moving around for business purposes.

First, have you noticed the strange walk performed by business travelers lately? I was sitting in the E Concourse of the Atlanta airport when I saw several well-dressed folks doing a variation of the Sanibel Stoop –- the walking posture of those looking for elusive seashells in south Florida. Instead of spondylus americanus, though, these people are searching for an empty AC outlet. Here's a clue for those airlines trying to convince customers to fly their airline: make the experience more pleasant and productive. Free Wi-Fi is too much to ask in most spots (and I truly like Boingo), but electricity should be available to lots of passengers. I figure the push to put 12-volt adapters in every seat arm is pretty much stalled out until airborne Wi-Fi is much more common, but juice on the ground should be available far more than is currently the case.

Speaking of Boingo, it's a good example of a service that works well, and works consistently wherever I go. Between Boingo and my all-you-can-eat cellular data plan, I'm online from almost everywhere I need to be. The 3G cell networks are getting better (and, yes, I know that WiMax will be the end of mobile data issues as we know them, but it has to actually be, you know, available before that happens). But Wi-Fi is still the way to go when you have real business to do and you're away from the office.

Connections are critical, and mine are becoming more interesting since I'm switching computing platforms. Yes, after watching many of the geeks I respect make the switch, I'm moving to a Macintosh computer. I'll have much, much more to say about that in coming days, but I'll start by noting that I'm generally happy, save a couple of things.

It's interesting, but the two things I'm less than thrilled about involve Microsoft applications. First, Entourage is no Outlook. For all its flaws, Outlook is a very nice platform for centralizing communications. Entourage, not so much.

Next, OneNote is a fabulous personal information manager that's not available on the Macintosh, and I miss it. If you want to see the applications that will be critical in business in a few years, look at the desktops in college classrooms now; OneNote is everywhere in the universities I visit.

There's more to come from the trip and from the move to the Mac. In the meantime, let me know if you have you moved away from Windows for your primary computing platform. It would be interesting to know if there's a trend developing in small business computing.