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The Art of IT: Packaging. The Future is Packaging

In the movie The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman's character receives a bit of advice deemed critical to his future. "Plastics. There's a great future in plastics." Pithy, yes. But insightful? In the days of vinyl miniskirts, I'm not so sure.

So here's my somewhat pithy and, I hope, more insightful advice to you: Packaging--it's all about packaging. I'm not talking about the carton your latest IT gizmo came in, I'm talking about the features and functions of the gizmo itself. The greatest debate currently raging in technology is all about packaging, and which side you choose can mean a lot to the success of your organization--and, by extension, to you.

Consider the lowly PDA, for which the market has declined nine straight quarters, as reported by IDC in late April. Most recently, the decline was a precipitous 22.3 percent. Before you grab your Treo to fire off an e-mail disputing these figures, realize that IDC does not consider devices with cellular access in its numbers. For every PDA gone unsold, there are countless BlackBerrys and Treos that have taken up the slack.

Here's where packaging comes into play. I, like you, hate to carry crap in pockets, especially my back pockets. That leaves room for keys and money in one front pocket and some electronic device in the other--and whatever that device is, it had better have cellular capability. Give me something with a keyboard and e-mail functionality, and I'm a happy camper. Put a camera on it or a silly handwriting recognition app, and I couldn't care less.

Interestingly, IDC's PDA stats count devices that can do Wi-Fi. The message is clear. Great connectivity in the office is of little interest when you're competing for pocket space. Replace my desk phone with a Wi-Fi phone; that's fine. Expect me to carry that Wi-Fi phone and my cell phone everywhere? No deal.

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