It's called the Consumer Electronics Show, but at some point in the last decade, the line between electronics for consumers and all manner of digital technology blurred. Today, the acres of exhibits at CES include all sorts of goods and services that are geared more toward offices than living rooms.
At this year's show, whole categories of new products make more sense for business use than for individual leisure. For example, Xerox, Epson, and Ion Audio announced mobile scanners, which are clearly useful tools for traveling business folk.
The 11.5-ounce Epson Workforce DS-30, due in March for $179, is a TWAIN-compliant scanner that plugs into a laptop USB port and produces high-quality scans (up to 600 dpi) that you can send directly to email, FTP sites, or a system folder. Using the included Document Capture Pro software for Windows, the Workforce DS-30 can also scan directly to cloud services. It comes with OCR software for Windows and Macs, so you can create editable text from scanned documents and business cards.
The Xerox Mobile Scanner, meanwhile, is a $250 battery-powered stand-alone scanner that produces PDFs and JPGs of up to 300 DPI. In addition to not requiring a computer, it comes with a Eye-Fi SD card that allows it to beam its output to Wi-Fi-equipped devices such as iPads or iPhones that don't accept standard wired inputs.
Ion Audio's Docs2Go scanner is designed solely for use with an iPad, which sits on a 30-pin dock in the scanner. You operate the scanner via an app that displays the results of the scan in real time on the iPad screen. This one is due by midyear, with price to be determined.
Mobile Accessories and Apps
Several vendors are jumping on the mobile device bandwagon with products that will further encourage business use. Intuit, for example, introduced a new and easy-to-use credit card scanner that plugs into a smartphone headphone jack and works with apps for its GoPayment service, which allows merchants to accept credit card payments without having to pay monthly fees (instead they fork over 2.7 percent of the purchase price). The company is giving the scanner free of charge to merchants who sign up for the service (no contract commitment required).
Intuit also announced plans to take GoPayment global, starting with service to Canada "soon."
But Intuit has plenty of competition in the mobile payments arena, including Square (we recently compared Square and GoPayment) and PayAnywhere, which was also at CES to show off its app (for iPad, Android, and--soon--Blackberry) and a free card swiper that plugs into a headphone jack.
Another CES find that should appeal to business users is CloudFTP, a $100 soap-bar-sized box that turns USB storage devices into wireless file servers. Simply plug a USB drive into the CloudFTP's USB port (it's a powered port, in case the drive needs one), and CloudFTP creates an ad-hoc Wi-Fi network, making the drive's content accessible to any Wi-Fi-enabled devices via either standard FTP, dedicated iOS or Android apps, or an HTML5 web app.
This sounds like a very handy gadget for iPad fans who need a way to access data on a USB drive without having to find and fire up a notebook. We're looking forward to testing it when production units ship, hopefully within a few months.
Security is always a major business concern, and Samsung signaled its interest in marketing its new Galaxy 10.1 tablets (both the Wi-Fi and Verizon LTE versions) as well as the global version of its Galaxy S II Android phone to businesses by announcing that these products have received an important government security certification.
Specifically, the products were certified to meet the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2, which clears the way for their use by government agencies that require the certification in order to ensure protection of sensitive data. (Apple's iPhone and iPad are in the process of earning FIPS 140-2 certification.)
Singapore-based ST Electronics, meanwhile, brought a prototype of its new notebook hard disk-encryption device to a CES press event. DigiSafe DiskCrypt is actually an enclosure for a standard 1.8-inch hard disk that fits into a standard 2.5-inch notebook hard disk bay. The encryption module is built into the enclosure, and the idea is to replace the 2.5-inch drive that came with the notebook with the enclosure-encased 1.8-inch drive.
The enclosure encrypts every sector on the drive; you provide validation by entering a PIN (and, optionally, plugging in a USB token) during the boot process. DigiSafe says its technology provides security without degrading performance, but it doesn't come cheap: The product is expected to start at $450 when it ships this summer.
New tools for mobile presentations continue to proliferate. The 3M Mobile Projector MP225a, for example, is designed for use with iOS devices (including iPads, iPhones, and recent iPods); it comes with a cable that connects to Apple's 30-pin dock connector. Encased in white and measuring roughly 6 by 2.5 by 1.2 inches, the LED-based projector has a native resolution of 800 by 600 and projects images of up to 80 inches on the diagonal at 32 lumens of brightness. It's available now for $299.
Optoma, meanwhile, introduced two new projectors for travelers. The $449 DLP-based Optoma PK320 is rated at a whopping 100 ANSI lumens of brightness and can project images of up to 150 inches on the diagonal. It has a native resolution of 854 by 480, weighs just over half a pound, and measures 4.7 by 1.2 by 2.7 inches.
Larger--but hardly huge--and a lot more powerful, the Optoma ML300, also DLP-based, projects images at 300 ANSI Lumens at up to 160 inches. It has a native resolution of 1280 by 800, weighs 1.4 pounds, and measures 7.2 by 1.8 by 4.4 inches. It will set you back $499.
Finally (and this is a personal favorite), Logitech introduced a strikingly innovative mouse, the Logitech Cube, that doubles as a presentation device. Shaped like a largish cube of sugar--it's about two inches long, an inch wide, and two-thirds of an inch thick--and available in black or white, it has a touch-sensitive surface for scrolling and clicking (no moving parts), and goes into presentation mode when you lift it from a surface. Who says business tools can't be cool?
For more blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation's largest consumer electronics show, check out PCWorld's complete coverage of CES 2012.