Although dubbed the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), vendors also use the event to show off devices that are just as capable of doing serious work done as they are at entertaining. The lines have blurred between consumer and business tech—hence the term consumerization of IT and the skyrocketing popularity of BYOD programs—and CES provides a good preview of what the small business IT landscape will look like in the near future.
Both 4K displays and wearable technology (smart watches, fitness trackers and electronic eyewear) took the show floor by storm this year. But in practical terms, they have a little more maturing to do before their benefits trickle up to the SMB market. Worry not, hardware vendors have plenty of gear that's tailor-made for small businesses at this year's CES, all of which are shipping soon if they haven't already.
Touchable All-in-One PCs
HP debuted the second-generation of its all-in-one, 27-inch workstation, the HP Z1. This iteration supports touch capability under Windows 8 and features Intel's blisteringly fast Thunderbolt I/O connectivity and expansion technology.
Aimed at videographers, 3D specialists and other creative professionals that push their systems to the limit, the HP Z1 is available in configurations that include a range of fourth-generation Intel "Haswell" Xeon and Core processors, NVIDIA Mobile Quadro GPUs, RAID storage and ECC (error-correcting code) RAM.
The 27-inch IPS display delivers rich, crisp visuals at wide viewing angles. A tool-less enclosure makes upgrading a snap. Front-facing speakers and DTS Studio audio technology fill the air with clear, robust sound.
HP also made waves by debuting another commercial all-in-one PC, one powered by Google's Android mobile operating system. The Slate 21 Pro features a 21.5-inch, full HD IPS touchscreen and ships ready to connect with Google's sprawling cloud services portfolio and apps marketplace.
The Slate 21 Pro also works as a touch-enabled monitor for Windows laptops. An HDMI port and an included USB cable lets you plug in your system, and at the push of a single button, it replicates your desktop on the Slate 21 Pro's screen. Prices start at $379.
Swiss Army Storage for Small Business
With the advent of mobile devices and new data-intensive computing workloads, the small business storage market is evolving to help employees maintain close-at-hand access to their files and to safeguard their valuable data.
SanDisk announced its new 64 GB Connect Wireless Flash Drive, which provides a pocket-sized means to expand a tablet or smartphone's storage capacity. Now, mobile workers don't have to purge pics or risk data overages by transferring files to the cloud.
"We are addressing a common problem of consumers running out of memory on mobile devices, and are extending our Connect product line with a 64GB Wireless Flash Drive for access to even more videos, photos, music, and documents on-the-go," said SanDisk's vice president of product marketing, Dinesh Bahal, in a statement.
SanDisk's 64 GB Connect Wireless Flash Drive is available now in the U.S. for $99.99.
IoSafe lifted the curtain on its "disaster-proof network attached storage (NAS) appliance," the ioSafe NAS 1513+. The 5-bay device, expandable to 15 bays, provides a sharable network storage target powered by a 2.13GHz Dual Core Intel Atom CPU and up to 4 GB of memory (2 GB standard) for advanced storage management and protection.
The ioSafe NAS 1513+ can also take a beating. "IoSafe's patented DataCast, HydroSafe and FloSafe technologies…protect data from loss in fire up to 1550 degrees Fahrenheit and submersion in fresh or salt water up to a 10 foot depth for 3 days," claimed the company in a press statement. Prices start at $1,599.99.
Windows Distances Itself from the Desktop
There is no shortage of Windows 8.1 tablets and notebooks for small business at CES.
Asus' new VivoTab Note 8, a compact tablet, runs Windows 8.1 and comes bundled with Microsoft Office Home and Student, a perk that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Its IPS touchscreen and Wacom stylus combo opens the door to mobile productivity and creativity.
Windows pen input appears to be catching on with Microsoft's hardware partners. Sony unveiled its new VAIO Fit 11A Flip PC, an 11-inch version of the company's sleek convertible laptop that folds flat into a tablet. It includes Sony's pressure-sensitive VAIO Active Pen. Prices start at $799.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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