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Technology's Impact on Business

Aired January 11, 2004 - 09:30:00   ET


RICHARD QUEST, HOST: Lost in a world of technology. Baffled, bewildered, bemused. You spend your life battling the technology, never quite managing to get it to work. So on this month's CNN BUSINESS TRAVELER, technology and finding your way out of the maze.
Hello and welcome to CNN BUSINESS TRAVELER. This month, we're all about technology. I'm Richard Quest.

Now you may think that I'm in Venice, but I'm actually in Paris. Hang on, no I'm not. I'm really in New York. Hang on, where am I. Of course, I'm in Las Vegas. And that's the point about today's technology. You can take it just about everywhere that you go.

Now the problem is that if you don't know what you're doing, you'll end up in a bit of a muddle, which is why I've come here, because anyone who is anyone in the technology industry at some point comes here, where all the big technology trade shows and conventions are held. And we're going to find out how to make the best use of your business technology.

So this month, the pioneer of the technology world, Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, plus the man who wants to put his computers into every home. We go on the road with Michael Dell and find out how technology helps him when he's traveling. Also from Blackberry's to handheld PC's, we road test the latest gadgets that help you stay in touch when you're on the move. Are they packed with useless gimmicks or can't we live without them?

Technology. You can do just about anything with it these days. I've got technology up to my eyeballs. There's Bluetooth here (UNINTELLIGIBLE) iPod, laptop computer, digital camera, digital home DVD player. I've got a wireless mouse. I've got a digital pen and three cellular phones. The only question is, how did we get here in the first place?


QUEST (voice-over): Cambridge University. This is where some of the greatest brains in the world meet to discuss new ideas, create new concepts. The intellectual birthplace of scientists like Sir Isaac Newton. Today's Cambridge is a driving force in technology.

Among the ancient university colleges lies the modern European headquarters of Microsoft. The company needed to tie in with an academic establishment like Cambridge to attract the best of Europe's scientists. Those like Andrew Herbert, who heads up Microsoft Research in Cambridge. A Ph.D. from Cambridge in the 1970's, Andrew Herbert has seen and studied technologies transformation over the years.

MICHAEL HERBERT, MICROSOFT: The technology keeps changing. It creates new possibilities. Every time we think we understand how to deal with complexity, we then advance what we want to do and take on bigger challenges, and that's the thrill of being in the computer industry. The market, the technology, are all changing at a very rapid pace, and so there are always new challenges, new things to look at.

QUEST: Look back two decades and it's clear how far we've come. In the 80's, this machine was seriously high tech. The Commodore PET. This computer had just 4,000 bytes of RAM compared with today's 100 million- plus. The Commodore PET weighed 20 kilos. Absolutely no use at all to the business traveler. Nowadays, we carry our computers in our pockets, and for traveling execs like Martin Vanderbrock (ph), modern technology has changed the way they do business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say the most fundamental change, as far as I'm concerned, is connectivity. It's the fact that you're able to communicate and connect to your clients at any time, wherever you are in the world. And what has improved as well, of course, is comfort.

I remember, you know, when I had my first mobile phone, it weighed something like 400 grams. My current mobile phone weighs approximately 57 grams.

QUEST: The real breakthrough in the last few years has been the miniaturization of technology. The smaller the gadget, the more we can carry, because here at least, small is beautiful.

Frank Nuovo is Nokia's head designer and says loving our gadgets is key. If we don't appreciate them aesthetically, we're less likely to learn how to use them properly.

FRANK NUOVO, NOKIA: Even business people have style and so it's not just about pure functionality. We also have to feel comfortable. Like the suit that they wear, the overall package, in its functionality, in its quality, in its overall comfort relationship with the businessman, has to be right.

QUEST: Now if forced to admit it, many of us are swayed as much by the appearance of modern technology as by its use.

(on camera): Then of course there are the gimmicky aspects. For instance, the phone that makes videos and takes photographs. Big smile.

It's hardly photo album quality, but it is a bit of much needed fun.

NUOVO: So a lot of the products that we have today are considering the fact that you mix your personal and your business life. It's not 9 to 5, especially on the road. It's 24/7. And so designing for 24/7 means the products that you carry have to serve both your home and your business needs.

QUEST: So technology has enabled us to work faster, work harder, do more things at the same time, keep in touch with our friends and our colleagues. Technology has made our lives nonstop. Good for our productivity, not necessarily good for our state of mind.


Technology and how far we've come. Coming up after the break, some thoughts on where we might be headed next.

Bill Gates. We meet the man behind Microsoft.


QUEST: Welcome back to BUSINESS TRAVELER from Las Vegas. I'm in the house of the future.

The beauty of new technology, of course, is that everything should speak to everything else. So from the kitchen, right the way through to the living room, the bedroom, the office and the bathrooms, all should be connected, and what makes that possible these days is wireless technology. There is little debate that this is the wave of the future.

The man responsible for doing much of the thinking about these things is the chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft, of course, Bill Gates. I met him at the Consumer Electronic Show here in Las Vegas.


QUEST: The lifestyle of the business traveler has dramatically altered in the last 5 to 10 years. Would you agree? In terms of the technology we're using and the way in which we're using it.

BILL GATES, MICROSOFT: Absolutely. Portable computers have become a standard tool. Portable phones have become a standard tool. For better or worse, it's easy to stay in touch.

QUEST: You mentioned it, for better or worse. What do you think is the biggest problem for the business traveler when using all of this equipment?

GATES: Well, I think we make progress every year and people are more ambitious about what they want to do. You know, the heart and soul of it is making sure that e-mail is easy to get, easy to stay up to date with, making sure that it's easy to make the communications connections.

Computers are certainly getting smaller and lighter and we do a lot in our Microsoft office software to take that scenario and make it simple, even when you're connected up over slow-speed connections.

QUEST: Do you think that to some extent it's all a bit too complicated? Too many machines doing too many things and they're too complicated to use?

GATES: Well, people can decide how many of these devices they want to work with. The path forward is to make things simpler, to make it so that your phone understands your schedule the same way your PC does and you don't need to move the information around. Today it's far too manual. You're synching the devices by giving different commands, the different devices understand the information in different ways.

So take something as simple as having an address book with photos. You actually can do that today, but it's just too hard to connect all those pieces together. It's the kind of thing that software advances are going to make very, very simple.

QUEST: As the chief software architect, do you see -- can you get into the mind of the business traveler in that respect, in working out what they want to do?

GATES: Well, certainly I and the people at Microsoft doing this work, we are business travelers, and we come back from our trips and say, "Hey, why was this so complicated" or "This didn't work for me." So as well as getting massive feedback from our customers at large, we ourselves are experiencing the fact that software has improved a lot, but there's a lot more that can be done.

QUEST: You see, I'm just wondering, do you remember the days when it was you, Mr. Gates, scrambling under the desk in the corner of the hotel room with 15 adapters, three chargers, four plugs and none of it would work? Or do you still have that experience sometimes in trying to get the whole thing to work?

GATES: Well, the things that were hard then are very easy today, but now we're trying to do more and more advanced things, so getting connecting up is still often difficult in a hotel room, which cable, which plug. You know, some of the wireless connections are getting easier, but even that, still a lot to do.

QUEST: And do you foresee that the idea of a one machine, one PDA, is actually not realistic -- we are always going to have two or three machines with us that will have to connect to each other and that the holy grail of a single machine that will have everything in it for us on the road is just unrealistic?

GATES: I think we're always going to have different form factors. You know, the wrist, it's great. You want to look at the time, you want to look at a sport's score, we have the Spot watch which is that wrist form factor. A pocket device. Those are becoming -- the phone and PDA really are coming together there, so I don't think you're going to need multiple pocket devices.

The portable PC, you know, rapid improvement there. But all three of those devices play complimentary roles. Sometimes you just want the pocket device. Sometimes in a meeting you just want to look at your watch. And so we need to get them to work together.

QUEST: My final question. I'm stranding you on a desert island, but I'm going to allow you one machine, one piece of technology, one thing that you would want to have with you. What would it be? What's going to be your desert island technology?

GATES: I wonder if I've got a broadband Internet on my desert island or not? I'd certainly take a PC, whether I had that connection or not, because there I can do everything. I can create documents, I can watch movies, I can browse for information. It's really a general purpose device and so if I'm restricted to one, I'd go with the portable PC.


QUEST: And coming up after the break, another major player in the world of technology. We go on the road with Michael Dell, the man who's largely responsible for making PC's as widely accessible as they are today.


QUEST: Welcome back to CNN BUSINESS TRAVELER from Las Vegas.

We've heard a great deal about technology and how it can improve your working life. Now it's time to put some of it to the test, the gadgets that matter and I've got them in every nook and cranny.

For instance, there's the Handspring Treo or maybe you'd prefer the Pocket PC, the XDA-II. Then of course there's the Blackberry. We're going to put this one to the test as well.

But before we do, let's hear from the salesmen, and let's start with the Handspring.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a Palm-based smart phone, so it does telephone things. It also does all the organizer basics. It does e-mail. It does calendar. It will do the whole Internet access thing. It can hold your contacts. And it's also a Palm operating system, so it can run applications.


QUEST: The Handspring Treo. Now, for the Pocket PC, the XDA-II.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can get your e-mails, you can update your calendar, you can stay connecting over the Mobile Radio Network. Above that, you can roam to over 50 countries. You can connect to other devices by Bluetooth. You can even connect by a wireless LAN with an attachment to the device.


QUEST: Finally, the Blackberry.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The primary purpose of the Blackberry is to enable people who travel in the course of their work to send and receive e-mails wherever they are, at whatever time of the day.


QUEST: Three machines. Let's put them to the test.


QUEST: When it comes to e-mails, really the Blackberry is the Rolls Royce for one simple reason, it's always online. It does use GPRS technology and often reception can be a bit spotty. Also, the calendar and the diary functions are not that strong, but if it's just e-mail and phone you want, then the Blackberry is the one.

The XDA-II is an extremely powerful machine. It's got an excellent camera and it pretty much does everything you are likely to want as if you were using your own computer. The problem is it's a little on the large side to take out at night, and the settings are very complicated. Like your PC at home, it's going to take you time to get used to this one.

Finally, the Handspring Treo. The keypad is extremely small, but you do get used to it. The phone has all the functions you're likely to want, messaging and camera and e-mail access. For my money, the diary function on the Handspring is probably the best, but you have to remember, there's no one machine that will probably suit all your needs at once. It's all going to be a question of compromise and, frankly, I'm happy to compromise with the Handspring.


And if you'd like any of the details on the machines we've been showing you, visit our Web site. It's at, and please, an e-mail to me about some of the gadgets you use on the road, what you like, what you don't, what's your most useful. It's the usual e-mail address,

Now, back to trying my luck.

When it comes to modern inventions, I want to show you something. How about one of these. It's a pen. Easy to use. Allows freedom of expression and thought and you won't have too much trouble when the power runs out.

Of course, in today's age is what you really want is one of these, a digital pen. Allows you to write, connects to your computer and even makes a nice buzzing noise as well.

One man who's done more perhaps than most to bring a computer into all our homes is Michael Dell, the head of Dell Computers. We went on the road.


MICHAEL DELL, DELL COMPUTERS: In almost any study you read, you find that Dell is at the top of the list in terms of quality and customer satisfaction. However, we know that we can do more.

I think the thing we're most proud about is we've been able to make technology more accessible and affordable. You know, if you think about the cost of a computer 10 or 20 years ago, we've been able to drive that down. You know, this has become a large industry that's responsible for lots of productivity, education and entertainment. These tools are now much more affordable in homes and small businesses and emerging countries where they're kind of bootstrapping themselves, using technology as a way to advance their productivity and we've been a big part of that.

If you're in a business like ours, you have to go where the customers are, and there's no substitute for showing up in person. Yes, I mean, it's fun, it's exciting to be here, to see customers, to experience what they're feeling, what they're challenges are and what they like and dislike about our products. You know, we can look at it in charts and data and talk to people on the phone. It's just not the same as seeing people in person, getting a feel for what they're really feeling.

The great news is that there's been a lot of progress in the last year or two in terms of both broadband access in the places that travelers go and the wireless technologies that are embedded in the kinds of mobile computers that we sell.

It's pretty easy to find a hotel almost anywhere in the world, you know, from China, all over Asia, North America, Europe, with broadband access and certainly, you know, when I travel, I make a point to stay at places where there's broadband access, because it's just too important, and you know, in today's business world, if you get behind in your e-mail, you kind of fall out of touch very quickly.

I tend to, as I'm flying, to kind of think about the first time I came to COMDEX and the differences. I mean, it's pretty different. Certainly the scale of the shows is different and the role we have in the industry is very different. It's a lot of fun. I still get very excited by the opportunities in our industry and it's -- sometimes you have to kind of put yourself in -- but I don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about history. I think more about what we have to accomplish and what's ahead and all the challenges and opportunity that we have in front of us.


QUEST: On the road with Michael Dell.

And that's CNN BUSINESS TRAVELER for this month. I'm Richard Quest, in the Nevada desert, where I'm delighted to say none of my communications tools works and I forgot to bring the satellite phone, so I guess I'll just have to think about life instead.

Wherever your travels may take you, I hope it's profitable. I'll see you next month.



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