Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In Search of Paperless Meeting Device

Paperless meetings.

I like the idea, but I'm struggling with the right solution.

Our last Port Authority Board meeting had a budget document and numerous resolutions that resulted in, at least, a ream of paper being copied and distributed.  That's probably the average paper usage each time.

Our multi-person fly-in to DC each year sees us carrying around briefing papers galore.

Now, sparing six or seven reams of paper a year isn't going to save too many trees, but the timing seems right to move to paperless meetings.  If nothing else, we'll feel more green and less guilty. 

The tech-savvy look of carrying around tablet pc's has some value too.  I haven't seen a group fly in to DC yet who tried this (though I'm sure there are such groups).

So, now convinced, I started looking.  I'm a quick decision maker but this has not been easy.

I've used a PDA or a smartphone of some sort for over six years.  This is an area of comfort for me.

I looked at the Samsung Galaxy.  No chance.  I tried it out for 24 hours and couldn't get comfortable with it.  Its usefulness seemed less than my smart phone.  The 3G service stopped working, and I couldn't find a help button.  With its smaller screen, it didn't fit our paperless meeting goal either.  I think it was an oversized PDA or a smartphone with its phone disabled.  That makes it a handicapped dinosaur.

I looked at the I-Pad. Not sold, yet. It's size is right, but I can't get sold on it's incompatibility with our other Windows-based devices.  I might be persuaded though.  I know at least five people who own them and, even though one has sold his, they all like them and swear by them.

I want to test drive a HP Slate.  I think the slowness of Windows vs. Android is way oversold.  I like the idea of having Windows Office programs on my wireless device. 

I was just told about the Barnes and Noble entree, Nook.  Nook may not be the robust, multi-function devices that the I-Pad and others are, but I can see us going this way.  It's less expensive, by far, than the Slate and appears, from a cursory review, to have paperless meeting capabilities.  We'll be digging deeper on this one too.

Lastly, there's been an explosion of generic tablets with Android platforms.  They're so inexpensive, usually below $200, that it could be a safe call as long as it does the basics--store documents and display them for reading.  The "could" part has me hesitant.  I, as of yet, have not found one that didn't have mixed reviews.  Wanting to be seen as tech-savvy but having a cheap solution may give our customers a mixed review on us too.

So, the jury's still out.  Our aim?  A truly paperless Board meeting in February and a paperless DC fly-in that same month too.  Stay tuned.

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