From a Segway to move around in the city to a string of communication accessories, businessmen tell us why they can’t live without their technological gizmos.
BY ANTHONY DOESBURG
When Steve Simms packs his bags to pitch his wares overseas, there’s not one but three items he wouldn’t be without. What’s more, each item in his gadget bag would warm the heart of Apple boss Steve Jobs.
“I take my iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air with me when I’m travelling,” says Aucklander Simms, who spends about 60% of his time out of the country.
Each gadget has its role. When at an event such as a conference, the iPhone and iPad accompany him, and in his hotel room he’ll work on the MacBook laptop.
“I have to say that since the iPad came out I’m using the MacBook much less. One of the most remarkable things I saw recently at a conference in Hong Kong was that half the audience had upgraded their lives to iPads.
“So where you usually see people opening up laptops, there they all were with iPads. What that says to me is that Apple has cracked it — if you just want something for browsing the internet, doing email and taking notes, that’s the gadget.”
Apple has certainly broken into the business market with its mobile devices. Andrew McLean, managing director of Christchurch-based Bremca Industries, is no fan of Apple computers, but has adopted the iPhone as a tool for travelling with.
“We used to carry a notebook, phone and GPS when overseas,” McLean says, “but since we started using iPhones about 12 months ago, with their built-in GPS, the notebook and phone give us access to everything.”
The ease with which the iPhone connects to the company’s Microsoft email setup convinced McLean to get over his Apple phobia.
Bremca, a manufacturer of electrical components, does business in Australia, the Middle East and Europe. McLean says the company has become savvy about which hotels and cafes to go to for free internet access, which is essential for avoiding crippling cellular roaming charges.
“Roaming costs are our worst nightmare — they can crank up into the thousands of dollars without any trouble. We had a guy away for about 72 hours and his roaming charges were just under $1000.”
Where possible, travelling Bremca staff buy SIM cards for short-term cellular voice and data services, which are typically about a tenth of the cost of roaming.
Mark Thomas, founder and technology head of software exporter Right Hemisphere, also goes to lengths to avoid roaming charges. He is another iPhone carrier who will buy a SIM card overseas rather than be hit by a big bill when he returns to New Zealand.
“Roaming rates are possibly one of the most criminal activities I think the telcos get away with,” says Thomas. “Never, never roam with an iPhone or any phone for that matter.”
Right Hemisphere sells sophisticated visualisation software, and has an office in San Ramon in Silicon Valley, where Thomas bases himself when in the US. He lugs a grunty computer on his travels, along with an iPad.
“I have a powerful 3D-capable laptop, a Dell 6400, to not only show 3D presentations but to author and prepare them on the road. If I didn’t have to do heavy graphics work and 3D I would leave it at home and just get a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPad.”
The iPad is ideal for quick presentations and catching up with more detailed email than is comfortable with the iPhone.
“I don’t have a 3G iPad. I cannot stomach the idea of paying for two data plans.”
IMPORTANCE OF FREE WI-FI
“Starbucks is always a good bet for Wi-Fi — if you actually like the coffee,” Thomas says.
He has accumulated a variety of devices to make life on the road smooth, including battery chargers and battery-life extenders. Other must-have items are an ethernet cable for connecting to hotel networks, and a range of audio connection cables for plugging his iPhone into car radios and hotel stereos to listen to music.
Thomas recommends a Samsonite iMobile 360 Spinner case (www. yourofficestop.com/samispin360-cs. html) as a travel companion. “It has enough room for a change of clothes when overnighting from a base location.
Stack another carry-on on top and you have enough for several weeks on the road, I find.” What’s more, they readily roll down the aisle of a plane, he says.
Simms, like every frequent overseas traveller, also rails against cellular roaming costs. But he is actively providing an alternative.
With partner Phillip Joe and financial backer Sir Stephen Tindall, in 2006 he founded Wi-Fi internet access provider Tomizone, which has thousands of hotspots around the world. Simms is an avowed technology-lover.
“I’m certainly not a laggard when it comes to technology. I pretty much want to get the latest — if it’s helpful. If it’s just a trivia sort of gadget, I’m not interested.”
There is an exception to that rule, however: since an encounter with Steve Wozniak, co-founder with Jobs of Apple, Simms has had a collection of different coloured lasers.
Although their main use is to impress guests by aiming them the 30km from his deck to Auckland’s Skytower, they do have a more serious purpose.
“We use them for lining up pointto-point radios, so that’s a real-world application.”
Another acquisition in common with Wozniak is Simms’ Segway, an upright two-wheeled electric conveyance that bears more than a passing resemblance to a push mower.
“It gets me around town pretty quickly,” Simms says. It, too, has a practical use.
“For instance, I’ve just held a major conference here in Auckland, hosting 70 delegates at the floating pavilion. Without the Segway I would have been goosed. I would have lost so much time going back and forth to the office.”
A shame it’s too big to take on a plane. [END]