The Road Wirer
by Mark Sedenquist
It wasn't my intention to allow five weeks to pass before I sat down to compose my thoughts about the 2000 Comdex show in Las Vegas in November, but the delay has allowed some perspective to settle in amongst the razzle-dazzle memories of the marketing efforts at the show. My focus at all such telecommunication and electronic shows is to look for products or services that can deliver useful informational tools that a Dashboarder can use today. Most of the coolest new versions of PDA's, Web-pads and multi-feature cellular devices only perform well in the cleanest digital urban areas of the United States and fail to meet the minimum standards of roving and mobile dashboarders. One of the interesting aspects of Comdex is that much of the best cutting edge technology never appears on any of the official exhibit halls of the convention. Manufacturers and service providers rent luxury hotel suites to showcase new ideas to corporate clients. While wandering down the hallways of the penthouse suites in the Strip hotels I saw PC-like devices and elaborate viewing systems that looked like they had just been transported from the nearest starship. In light of this, it seemed particularly appropriate that I did find a service for Dashboarders away from the convention halls aboard a motorhome owned by Terri & Steve Romine.
Terri Lee Romine is a certified Virtual Assistant, (VA), who is based in the Los Angeles area. VA's are independent contractors who provide office and administrative support to businesses. Back in 1997, when we formed RTA Marketing a provider of event and road promotional services, we found that our corporate clients perceived our on-the-road lifestyle as potentially unsuitable for a contractor who was supposed to manage and produce six-figure promotional campaigns. Our solution was to hire an office manager and create an office location in Ft. Worth, Texas. The physical location of an office based in a major urban area and the in-charge quality of the entrepreneur we hired provided a sufficient presence for our corporate client to feel comfortable in hiring RTA Marketing to undertake their campaign efforts. Terri and a host of fellow VA's across the country are providing similar services to their clients. "My client's customers can always find someone at their desk answering the phone," says Terri, who provides a near 100% office solution between normal business hours of 7:00 am to 6:00 pm.
When I first found the International Virtual Assistants Association website, (www.ivaa.org), I thought it could provide a perfect job opportunity for dashboarders themselves, but the lack of an effective and 100% reliable wireless network will require that VA's stay connected to their land-lines for the foreseeable future. Most VA's operate from home offices equipped with high speed internet access and can provide a secretarial solution for incoming calls to a dashboarder's business number, provide website design, desktop publishing support, database and computer management and general office support including payroll and research services. Terri's clients include attorneys, e-business solution providers, salespersons, doctors, pest control professionals, and other entrepreneurs. On the few occasions when Terri and Steve hit the road, she uses instant messaging, e-mail and the Motorola T-900 to stay in touch with her client's customers. More information about Terri's company is on-line at www.innovativeoffice.net.
In the cool gadgets category, I really liked the demonstration versions of the new Handspring Visor. Since the show, I have seen a few of them being used by other first-adopters. Craig Smith, a fellow dashboarder, was impressed with the power-consumption/management innovation that ensures that the add-on elements - a digital camera, GPS unit and wireless modem all have internal battery sources so that the plug-and-play modules don't adversely affect the basic calendar and date book functions of the PDA device. There were a number of new hands-free devices including a blue-tooth enabled headset being marketing under the Netcom label. For those who would want to take their PC into the backcountry (putting aside for the moment - the lack of a supporting wireless network…) there are some very cool notebook computers being built by Melard Technologies. The expectation of true two-way satellite connectivity for dashboarders was dashed by the realities of the rollout by both the StarBand and DirecPC offerings. For an excellent discussion check out the entries by Mychal in the Wireless Forum.
I am looking forward to next month's Consumer Electronic Show-- perhaps I will find some new stuff that really works in the dashboarder's world. I hope your holiday season is merry and relatively free of static.
Las Vegas, Nevada
December 18, 2000