These five high-tech products make a lot of low-tech sense

By Max Berry


It seems that there is always some new gadget to buy, some new breakthrough that you, the small business owner, supposedly can't live without. It can be hard to separate the essential business tools from the latest tech novelties. Here, to help you make some sense of the deluge, are five innovations that will truly put your business on the cutting edge.


1. Looking for an ultra-thin laptop at a reasonable price? The folks at MSI Computer have granted your wish. The MSI X-Slim X340 Notebook ($899; see for retail information) weighs in it a svelte 2.86 pounds and is only .78 inches thick at its widest point, making it ideal for easy travel. It is also the first notebook to utilize the Intel ULV CPU, which requires just 1/6th the power of a standard mobile CPU. The LCD monitor offers HD resolution and you'll have 320 GB of storage at your disposal. And did we mention it costs less than $900?


2. For office work on the go, Brookstone's Laptop Essentials Kit ($50, provides all the standard accessories of your desktop computer in a zippered travel case. The kit includes a USB numeric keypad, retractable optical mouse, and gooseneck USB light. Earbuds with an integrated microphone allow you to use Skype and other Internet-based phone services and a retractable high-speed Internet cable will help you log on even when doing business in a place without wireless access. A four-port USB hub is also included for additional peripherals, so you can utilize all the gadgets and accessories standard to your office no matter how far from home your business takes you.


3. Metal staples are flimsy, eco-offensive, and often lead to annoying nicks and scratches. Get rid of them altogether with an E3 Living Staple Free Stapler ($6.95; The contraption may sound like a contradiction in terms, but the staple free stapler punches out tiny strips of paper and uses them to sew together as many as five sheets. In addition to the environmental benefits and low likelihood of personal injury offered by E3 Living's product, you'll also save money on staples and have an easier time recycling paper since there are no metal scraps to deal with. If you're looking to fasten more than five sheets of paper, might we recommend jumbo sizes paper clips or reusable binding clasps?


4. If you're a serious techy, chances are you already have an iPhone. Why not soup it up with some applications designed with the small business owner in mind? PC2Me allows you to connect remotely to your Windows desktop and costs $29.95 for the year. QuickBooks Online gives you access to your QuickBooks data. The monthly cost of $9.95 covers you and your accountant. The Splurge app keeps your spending in line by tracking and organizing expenses while Billing Manager, free from Intuit, is great for easy invoicing on the go. Doing business internationally? TokTok Translator provides quick translation between Chinese, Japanese, English, French, Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish, and Arabic, among other languages. And, naturally, you'll want to stay abreast of all the latest gadgets to help your run your business. Get All The Tech is a preconfigured RSS reader that sends you feeds from tech sites like Engadget, Gizmodo, Slashdot, Techcrunch, and Wired.


5. It might not be a gadget, per se, but YouTube is an excellent technological resource for marketing your business. Simply transferring your local television spot to the web might be a good idea for your own web site, but YouTube presents a different kind of challenge-and opportunity. If you're a craftsman, make a video of yourself at work, documenting your process from beginning to end. Stone Brewery, of Escondido, California, has posted a dozen or so videos on YouTube offering an inside look at their brewing process-a craft beer aficionado's dream. Just remember that the site is a community of users looking to be entertained, not pitched to. Feature your product or service in a quirky way, like Orem, Utah's Blendtec did by producing a series of videos in which the high-powered blender manufacturer put its product to the test by attempting to blend odd items like glow sticks and hockey pucks. It all adds up to an innovative marketing scheme and-best of all-it's free. Participate in the site's discussion forums and comment on other videos to start getting your name out there. And don't forget to include your e-mail address and URL in your video. YouTube can bring people who wouldn't normally hear about your business directly to your door, or at least your inbox.