Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dell Adds a Tablet PC

I know Dell has plenty of fans among Realtors. Now you have a Dell Tablet PC to consider next time you want to upgrade your notebook. The company is taking orders its newly announced version of a convertible Tablet, the Latitude XT ( , and it’s been a long time coming. The starting price, $2499, may preclude this option for some, but with Dell now in the Tablet market, competitive pressures could ultimately translate into better buys in the year ahead.

Apparently, Dell waited until it got the touch sensitive screen technology—which powers the advantages of a Tablet—right before bringing its version to market. The 12.1-inch screen features what Dell calls capacitive touch technology for faster, more accurate system response to user input in Tablet mode. Users can touch the screen or use the battery-free pen to control system functions, or enter data.

Key specs of the basic configuration Latitude XT include 1.06GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 40GB hard drive, optical CD read/write and DVD read drive, Wi-Fi g, and a full-sized keyboard. The unit weighs just under pounds.

Tablets haven’t caught on here, or anywhere, at the levels some were predicting when Windows for Tablet PCs was announced in 2002 But that could be simply a matter of the solution preceding the need. When you look long term at real estate, and the inevitability of electronic contracts, digitally signed, and Web-based negotiations and closings, the case is being made for a Tablet, or some variation of its data capture capability, for future transactions.

So, even if you’re not ready for a Tablet now , you might want to take a look, familiarize yourself with the technology and think about its implications for how you conduct business. Microsoft’s Tablet site is probably the best place to start:

Friday, December 14, 2007

Why RealTechTools?

I’m launching this blog, RealTechTools, to supplement the work I do covering technology for the print and Web versions of Realtor magazine, published by the National Association of Realtors. I’ve been covering technology as a freelance contributor to Realtor magazine since the early 1990s, and in the column Tech Watch since the inception of Realtor magazine online, sometime around 2000.

With my very first paycheck from Realtor, way back when(I think it was called Real Estate Today at the time) I purchased the first external hard drive to go with my Mac Plus---a whopping 40 megabyte drive for round $400. Times have sure changed.

Ever since, I’ve done most of the monthly buying guides to technology which have run in Realtor magazine, and a few other features. Tech Watch was later launched to add and expand coverage in a more timely fashion on the Web. Originally the column ran twice each month. It was cut back to once a month in 2006, and now, for 2008 they rolling it further back to just six times a year.

I enjoy writing for NAR's Realtor publications. The editors there work hard to deliver a balanced, quality product addressing the varied needs of real estate professionals, from the new agent to the seasoned pro. So, I don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize that arrangement; for a freelance writer, that usually means not writing for competitors. But, I need an outlet: I really enjoy exploring practical applications of the latest innovations for real estate, and want to continue that.

A blog seems the logical compromise, as far as keeping myself and readers informed about developments I—drawing on years of experience writing about technology in general, and its applications in real estate, in particular— believe may be of some interest or benefit.

As a freelancer, though, my first priority has to be those paying assignments which allow me to take care of my family. I’d like to somehow turn this into a paying gig(if you have any ideas I’d love to hear them) but until I can crack that nut, I won’t always have time to go into much depth about what’s covered here. I can only pledge my best effort, and will also be developing a website of the same name as a more organized resource, with links to articles I’ve done and other content I think could be of help or interest.

The best of the Web is always user-driven, so I also hope to attract enough readers among real estate professionals and solutions vendors to make this a vital, active forum for sharing ideas and experiences on a range of tools.

When I started writing for Realtor, information on the latest listings was tightly controlled through the MLS. Digital cameras were just coming into their own, and the Web didn’t figure on many horizons. Mobile computing meant hefty “portables” and the virtual tour was virtually impossible. Smartphone, Tablet, GPS, Google—Who had a clue?

That’s all changed, for the good of all involved. Real estate today is more dependent on a host of technologies than ever, but it’s still a people business. With RealTechTools, I’ll focus on the tools, latest developments and implementation which can empower the real estate professional to set and match new standards in responsive, productive services for buyers and sellers. I’ll draw on my experience as a journalist and conversations with agents, brokers and vendors to try and serve up a mix of timely information, insight and opinion, as best I can with limited time and resources.

The old saying goes the first step is the hardest. That done, let’s move on.