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December 15th, 2011

“The times they are a-changing,” Bob Dylan sang over 40 years ago. He was right then, and he’s still right. In the tech world, change moves at supersonic speed, and there is so much to keep up on that doing so can be a full-time job. Lets take a look at what’s happening to Windows and Mac OS X as a direct result of advances in “tablet tech.”

Windows & Mac OS X

Tablet tech…small is (now) beautiful

When the first practical tablet devices debuted in the early 1990s – Apple’s Newton, the Palm Pilot and other Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) – they weren’t ready for prime time. The CPUs were slow, handwriting recognition was spotty and wireless didn’t exist. Just making room for batteries required a larger form factor, the predecessors of tablet PC rentals. It wasn’t until the first decade of the 21st century that WiFi, faster processors and new battery technology got small and inexpensive enough to usher in the “mobile computing era.”

In the mobile universe, screen space is limited (compared to your desktop’s monitor) so icon-based operation, whether via touchscreens like on an iPad rental or smart phone buttons, is a sensible approach. Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and Windows Phone (7.5 was just released) were all developed with ease of use in mind.

Icons, apps, constant connection

As devices began to proliferate and improve, special software programs (“apps”) were developed to do specific, focused tasks. While WiFi didn’t become a standard feature until just a couple of years ago, every device of every kind (and size) is now built to be “always on.” Expect your desktop OS – Mac, Windows and, to a lesser degree, Linux – to continue making communications and connectivity as easy, simple and fast as a phone. You will get a familiar “look and feel” whether you’re on a phone, a tablet/ipad or an iMac. At long last … convergence!

Many more small-device developments will find their way into both Windows and Mac OS X, but some are already visible in current releases. The latest Mac OS X release is Lion, 10.7, but it’s not the first to use elements of Apple’s iOS (now at version 5). The App Store is now, well, an app, permanently situated in the Dock, and like others in Lion it opens into “full screen” mode. With the newly inaugurated iCloud, which we wrote about recently, you can synchronize everything from work documents to iCal entries among all your devices, from the Mac Pro at your office to the iPhone in your pocket.

Mobile advances really are changing your desktop, and fast. Whether you need high-tech advice, high-tech gear – render farms, mass storage, A/V equipment – or the best trade show convention rentals, one call or e-mail (or a few clicks on our Quick Rental Quote form) will put you on the fast track to a solution!

December 1st, 2011

Smart phones, iPods, tablets and netbooks have joined the venerable laptop on the list of web-connected mobile devices. Screen sizes range from under an inch to 10 inches for leading tablets like an iPad rental, wreaking havoc with many website layouts. This motivated Microsoft, Google, Vodaphone and Nokia to form Mobile Top Level Domain (Mltd) as both a source for the dot-mobi domain and a promoter of new standards.

So what’s the big deal? A huge audience, that’s what. There are about 330 million cell phones in the U.S. alone, with Apple selling a big chunk of them (plus iPads, iPods and Macs). Add in all the Android tablets and e-readers and the number gets big enough to make marketing managers positively giddy. The Online Publishers Association (OPA) estimates that some 75% of mobile devices already access the Internet and, as time goes by, more of them will have real browsers.

General rules for website design

All businesses need to make it easy for clients and customers to connect with them. That used to mean a Yellow Pages ad. With the advent of the Internet, it came to mean a website viewed on a home or office monitor. Today it means being available to people everywhere – at home, at work and, increasingly, on the go – whether they’re using a phone, an iMac or a laptop.

So, what’s the best way for your site to meet the mobile challenge? Here are a few rules of thumb:

• Take a test-drive: At the very least, your company’s basic business information (name, address, phone, e-mail) should display clearly on a cross-section of mobile devices. Visit your site from a smartphone or two, a 7- or 10-inch pad and a tablet PC rental, for example. If you need a new site to accommodate mobile devices, you will know it immediately.

• Your existing site may work: If it is simple HTML, without e-commerce capabilities and a Content Management System (CMS), your current site may be fine for mobile devices. If it is, you can get away with simply registering a dot-mobi extension and forwarding visitors to your existing site.

• Color counts, too: If you are going to tweak colors across devices – using calibrated color management or Pantone color-matching – you need a big, high-resolution monitor made for color accuracy. Of course, this perfectly describes our plasma display rentals.

• Double up: If you have a complicated site, it may be best to host a brochure or bullet-list version of your website on your dot-mobi domain (same as your .com, if possible). Remember, your mobile site exists so that people can find and contact you, quickly and simply, by phone, e-mail or a (secure) browser form.

You can connect with CRE by phone, e-mail or our secure Quick Rental Quote form. We’re your go-to specialist for event production rentals, high-end post-production gear and everything in between. We help you turn mobile (or other) challenges into accomplishments. Call today!

November 30th, 2011

Recent studies show that the popular iPad rental is an increasingly significant source of web traffic in the U.S. With a little planning – and some strategic insight into the ever-busier two-way street of mobile media – you can attend conferences and be confident in your ability to drive attendees to your website with iPad. Here’s how.

iPad

Traffic leader

The respected web analytics firm, comScore, reports that smartphones and tablets (from iPhones to WiFi-enabled tablet PC rentals) accounted for nearly 7% of total U.S. web traffic in August 2011. About two-thirds of that was from phones, the balance from tablets. Astonishingly, the iPad grabbed over 97% of tablet traffic.

But the iPad is also driving more web traffic than Apple’s own iPhone – a 46.8% share of all traffic originating from iOS devices (again, in August), as opposed to the iPhone’s 42.6%. Tellingly, the total iOS share of U.S. mobile web traffic that month was 58.5% – that’s market penetration, folks. This is true despite the continuing growth of Android, which just released version 4.0 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”).

In the mix of communication

Clearly, the iPad is right “in the mix” when it comes to communications today. What makes it so potent as a marketing device – before, during and after conferences – is its portability, for one thing. But the real power lies in its “double connectivity” (WiFI and cell) and all the great apps that have been customized for it. Although the MacBook Pro is portable, too, Apple’s tablet is supremely flexible, adaptable and focused.

With access to e-mail, social networking sites and the rest of the web, you can use your iPad in real-time from your exhibit booth to draw attendees there. In addition to communications apps, the iPad has a full array of office tools for creating, editing, printing, sending and otherwise managing all of your marketing materials. You can announce breakout sessions, invite participants to interactive presentations powered by Audience Response Systems (ARS) and steer attendees to both your booth and your website.

Bottom line for business professionals

According to comScore, in 2010 over 115 million Americans used mobile devices to browse the web, use/download apps or access content. This is nearly 20% greater than just the previous year – and the numbers are even more impressive among business users. Whether using a PC desktop computer rental or a mobile device, business users have come to depend on the ability to reach their targets – worldwide, around town and in a sea of conference attendees.

When you need more than just an Xserve RAID array or other high-tech tool – when you need a solution, a plan, a strategy – you need CRE. One call or e-mail, or one visit to our Quick Rental Quote online form, and an Account Executive is on the job for you. Just let us know what you need to do!

November 15th, 2011

In our “Gear & Gadget Updates”, CRE Rentals looks for things that are convenient and clever, helpful and hip, new and newsworthy – and this time we are focusing on smart solutions to common problems.

Boogie Board Rip LCD writing tablet

LCD Writing TabletThe newest Boogie Board Rip LCD writing tablet from Kent Displays is the first one that can save your notes and sketches. With the introduction of this new model, the firm now offers a comprehensive line of “eWriters” that are viable, paperless alternatives to other media. Unlike Windows-based tablet PC rentals, however, the Boogie Boards do not convert handwriting to text, but save everything as high-resolution PDF files. The addition of handwriting recognition in the future will make the Boogie Boards even more valuable than they already are.

A beast of a bag

The Bheestie Bag (pronounced “beastie”) is a welcome solution to a very common problem – wet mobile devices. Surely you – okay, someone you know – must have dropped a phone or mp3 player in the sink, toilet or pool. The Bheestie Bag is made to save that electronic gizmo by pulling the moisture out. Unzip the Bheestie Bag and place the drenched device in it, and the special beads do their work.

The company tested the bag (so you don’t have to) with phones and other handheld devices like our digital recorder rentals. The product dimensions are not given, but the testimonials include success stories with cameras, and the bag appears large enough for small tablets with 7″ screens, too. For about $20, it seems like good insurance.

USB chargers for iPod, iPhone and iPad

It’s always smart to have extra chargers for your mobile devices, and two  new products worth a look: the InCharge Home USB and the Energizer USB Charger. They both have 10 watts of power, both are designed for the same types of devices and both solve another common problem – staying “powered up” on the go. Whether it’s your smart phone or an iPad rental, you’re covered.

The InCharge model’s thin wall plug has flip-out prongs, making it easy to share wall outlets. (The Energizer’s plug is similar but somewhat thicker.) If you’re a seasoned techie traveling with a MacBook Pro, you can recharge many devices from its USB ports. But millions of people don’t travel with a laptop, so the InCharge and Energizer products are real problem-solvers. The InCharge costs a bit more than the Energizer, but both are affordable if you shop wisely.

At CRE, we know value, just as we know technology, and that’s why we are the premier source for convention, trade show, audio-visual, computer and post-production solutions. From mass storage to Audience Response Systems (ARS), out expert Account Executives can help you achieve your goal, too. One call or e-mail, or a few clicks on our Quick Rental Quote form, and you are ready to roll!

November 8th, 2011

“The only constant in life is change.” There’s another old saying about life’s promises – something about “death and taxes” – but we’ll leave that for the philosophers. For the present purpose, “change” means “progress,” such as the use of powerful new mobile technologies (“mobile tech”) at both ends of the entertainment media spectrum, creation and consumption.

Mobile Technology

New, smaller “targets”

On the creation side, mobile tech changed entertainment production and post-production by bringing additional target devices to the broadcast/distribution mix. Instead of preparing final output for just movie screens, TV or color print jobs, production pros now have smart phones, tablets, game consoles and  iPad rental to consider. People are consuming content by the cyberbushel these days on all these devices.

The pros that produce all this content are doing so in new, decentralized ways because that same mobile tech keeps them plugged in to their production cycles from afar. The main challenge for content creators is preparing the vast majority of media that is going to be broadcast via live streaming. Apple, among many other firms, knows that the future of broadcast is the Internet, and has crafted super-potent hardware like the Mac Pro and flexible software like Final Cut to take us there. In the field of mobile tech, continuing education is not optional.

Enabling technologies

Already a media pro favorite, the iPad has over a dozen apps for remote control of a computer. Other mobile tech advances enable post pros to control their computers remotely via smart phones, Android tablets or a MacBook Pro, as well. And there are plenty of other mobile tech tools that empower the “virtual team” model – audio- and/or video-conferencing, e-mail, instant messaging and collaborative work environments (think Google Docs or iCloud) where project information and documentation can be shared.

Creative work can be done on a PC desktop computer rental in L.A. and integrated into workflows in India, Ireland or Italy, if need be, but when personal contact is required, many teams use video for virtual meetings. Both in-house solutions and “pre-fab” conference websites like LiveMeeting are critical for teams distributed across cities, states and nations. All major operating systems (OS) and environments that connect to the Internet will support this kind of collaboration, so Mac OSX, iOS 5, Android 3.0, Windows 7 and Linux users are all welcome to team up, virtually speaking.

Bottom line

Of course, it bears repeating that managing production and post-production does not depend on what kind of smart phone apps you have, or whether you’re working on a PC or an iMac. It comes down to planning, execution and oversight, all of which depend on good communication. Good communication is good management, all other things being equal.

Mobile tech has changed production in the entertainment industry, it’s true, but there’s another old saying about change that you should remember: The more things change, the more they stay the same. This applies to CRE, because no matter how far technology advances, you can count on us to be right on the leading edge. A call or e-mail is all it takes to get an experienced Account Executive on the job for you, or you can use the Quick Rental Quote form if you know what you need. Whatever the challenge, CRE is here to empower you.

October 11th, 2011

The old cliché about comparing apples to oranges has a high-tech version that cautions against comparing Apple products to, well, anything. Apple’s build quality, style and innovation set the firm’s products apart, but software is key, too. On its Mac Pro and other computers, the hardware works seamlessly with OS X Lion (10.7). For the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, Apple’s iOS – version 5 of which debuts October 12th – offers the same quality user experience.

Android Grows Up

Google presents the biggest challenge to Apple in the smart phone and tablet sectors, courtesy of its Android OS. Despite the obvious similarity of many Android and iOS apps, features and capabilities, people choose one over the other for a variety of reasons. There is no objective way to determine which OS is “the best,” but this intro to Android may spur you to investigate more fully which is best for you.

Android overview

You’re not going to rent laptops from CRE and find Android on them, but you will find it on the majority of smart phones that are not Apples or Blackberries. After some early bumps in the road, things settled down with version 2.0, nicknamed Gingerbread. Google has polished this version three times (it’s presently at 2.3), improving the soft keyboard, adding copy/paste, beefing up gaming performance and including support for VoIP and Near Field Communication.

You won’t find Android running any PC desktop computer rental, either, although low-end, small-screen “netbooks” and tablets use versions as old as 1.6. The newest Android version for phones is 2.3, but Google was smart enough to see the future of multiple mobile devices. Version 3.0, Honeycomb, the first tablet-enabled release, supports larger screens, multicore processors and graphics acceleration. In February 2011, Motorola debuted its Xoom with Honeycomb 3.0 tablet, a failed competitor to the iPad rental.

Future of Android

Honeycomb versions 3.1 and 3.2 followed quickly in May and June – adding USB transfer, solving a problem with 7-inch-screens and allowing media files to load directly from SD cards – but the development path is a bit cloudy at present. Some Google partners are hinting that Honeycomb 3.3 is in the works, while Google keeps talking up its “hybrid” OS, Ice Cream Sandwich. This is the long-awaited “Android for all” that will power all sizes and types of devices, from tablet PC rentals to in-car entertainment systems.

Finally, the Android Market claims “200,000″ items, but Apple’s App Store has more (and better) products – for now, anyway. Google recently introduced its Google+ service, but has inexplicably let its “other OS,” Chrome, languish for over a year. It may be that some kind of consolidation of all these products is in order. We’ll keep tabs on that for you.

Call or e-mail an experienced Account Executive for everything from high-end post-production gear to trade show convention rentals. Already know what you need? Use the Quick Rental Quote form right now!

August 25th, 2011

In Part 1 of  “10 New Technologies You’ll See in 2012″, we gave you the first 5 new technologies to expect in the future. Today, lets get the last five blockbuster developments which includes even more hardware, software, smart appliances and multipurpose devices.

6. Android 4. Technoids are looking forward to the Samsung Nexus, and not because of the phone – it will be the first smart phone to run Ice Cream Sandwich or Android 4. Android 4(Android 3 was called Honeycomb. Go figure.) Although Apple holds the lead in smart phones and tablets with its iOS-powered devices, Android is a solid alternative in both product categories, and new ones like embedded systems.

7. Branded tablets. Following the successful Kindle 3, Amazon is revising its approach to branding and product development. There has been talk of a touchscreen version, and the rumor mill now suggest that Amazon will release two different Android tablets in 2012. Aggressive pricing is a given, as is the entry into the tablet market of innumerable other companies.

8. Hybrid hard drives. Solid State Drives (SSDs) are fast, but expensive. Rotating-platter hard drives are inexpensive and offer huge storage capacities, but can’t keep up with CPU and system bus speeds. Until SSD prices come down with time, hybrid drives will combine fast-booting SSDs with big conventional drives to speed things up a bit. For swift, large- scale storage today you can rely on Ethernet disk RAID rentals, but tomorrow’s technology will encompass a variety of drive types and configurations.

9. Multi-touch commands. The futuristic trackpads on the  new MacBook Pro rentals and Apple’s Magic Trackpad, introduced multi-touch commands to modern computing. Other manufacturers’ laptops, tablets and digitizing pads are moving the same direction, as the touch interface is natural for humans. As the screen costs continuing dropping, you will find touch commands on everything from vending machines to refrigerators.

10. Wireless everything. We had a blog with that title last November, which is ages ago in “tech time.” Suffice it to say that we really mean everything this time. You’ve seen the WiFi all-in-one office devices, right? HP was a trailblazer, but WiFi printing and scanning is old hat now, especially compared to the astonishing new “EyeFi” SecureDigital cards. They’re so astonishing, in fact, that they made our “Gadget Fun for August” blog last week. Pay attention, in particular, to advances in wireless power and charging stations.

CRE pays close attention to tech trends, as well as what its customers need. With great service to complement the expertise of our Account Executives, your call or e-mail will get you the right answers, right now. If you know what you need, of course, our Quick Rental Quote form will get you in, out and on your way.

July 19th, 2011

Apple: The “iPhone Wait” and the “iPad Effect”

The iPhone Wait

Rumors are already starting to swirl about Apple’s iPhone 5, including a new design “paradigm” blending elements you see (and feel) on the MacBook Air, the fourth generation (4G) iPod touch and iPad rentals. Stricter adherence to the rounded sides, bevels and chiseled look of the reigning “Apple style” suggests the glass back may be a goner in a new, all metal case.

Media attention has moved to its other products since Apple refreshed its industry-leading iPad and upgraded its computer lines recently (CRE Rentals reported on the new iMacs in this blog). Besides some talk about increasing the screen size – which may not happen simply because there is only another millimeter or two it could possibly grow – the big question about the iPhone 5 is the same soon-to-be-ubiquitous acronym everyone else is talking about: NFC, for Near Field Communications.

Verizon, ATT&T and T-Mobile started working on an NFC payment system last year. Named “ISIS,” the proposed system would let people use everything from smart phones to tablet PC rentals for making purchases. ISIS has stalled for now, but some system or other will be ready within a year, especially since every Blackberry will have NFC starting this fall and Google is set to integrate NFC into Android before the year is gone. The only sure thing you can say about NFC and the iPhone 5 is that it’s too early to say – for now.

The iPad Effect

The “big box” electronics stores have been increasing the amount of floor space used for displaying tablets, space previously dedicated to traditional desktop and laptop PCs like iMac rentals. Best Buy is overhauling display areas in its U.S. stores, with new tablets like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, Motorola’s Xoom and the Hewlett-Packard TouchPad earning prominent placement.

This is due to the overwhelmingly successful, industry-changing iPad. The “iPad Effect” is allowing electronic retailers to stock more tablet models (like iPad, Galaxy Tab and Xoom) and carry wireless e-book readers from such makers as Acer, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, HTC and RIM.

At CRE, we stay updated and educated on everything from the latest geek gadgets to the high-end post-production gear like render farm rentals, and can outfit your office, your digital darkroom or your next conference breakout session room. Call or e-mail an experienced Account Executive or use our Quick Rental Quote form, and get the solution you need – the right one, right now. That’s how we roll!

June 21st, 2011

Reports from last week’s WWDC 2011 conference confirm that Apple’s Mac OS X Lion (10.7) is going through a process of “iPadification,” borrowing visual cues and multi-touch gestures from the iOS that runs CRE’s iPad rentals. But the two operating systems will not merge. OS X will remain a computer-only creature while iOS will run Apple’s tablets and phones.

Microsoft has decided to think different, to coin a phrase. Following the botched Vista and the well-received Windows 7, Microsoft settled on a new tablet-style interface for Microsoft Windows 8Windows 8 and will deploy it for desktops, laptops and tablets. In the MS lineup, it will be phones not PCs, that have their own OS (now called Windows 7 Phone). Microsoft has to begin seriously competing in an insane tablet market of the iPad’s making.

Share and share alike

Windows has an installed base of some 93% of the world’s PCs. Sounds great, but it’s a big challenge: MS must keep existing Windows users happy on their desktops and laptops, while capturing (and satisfying) tablet users with the same user interface. Remember, too, that Windows 8 will be designed for touch functionality.

Blogger Mike Halsey runs the Web site Windows8News, where he recently likened the upcoming OS to a “mashup.” Programmers drafted bits and pieces of Zune, Windows Phone and Media Center Metro to fashion a tablet-type user interface, but “big chunks” of classic Windows are there to maintain the “MS look and feel.” Its designers must make it as efficient with laptops and computer rentals as with the various styles and sizes of wireless devices.

Shared OS…it just might work

Some pundits are dubbing Microsoft’s strategy a “have your cake and eat it, too” approach that will only work if MS can merge the two interfaces seamlessly. From recent peeks, official and otherwise, they may be getting close. In the Apple universe, it would be as if the iPad had a secret “stealth mode” for using OS X when needed. But that’s not how the story was written, and Apple’s astonishing success suggests Steve Jobs made the right call.

A shared-OS approach doesn’t make sense for Apple. Does it for Microsoft? Perhaps. If the company retains ties to Windows’ original, “old school” heritage as it moves into the mobile market – pads, phones, tablet PC rentals, etc. – it will have a potent OS offering real options. If users don’t like the Windows 8 “tile” user interface, for instance, they can easily switch to the “classic” Windows look. Windows 8 will be released in 2012, according to a Senior Marketing Executive.

Windows has always given users the freedom to choose software, hardware components and drivers, so providing a choice of interfaces builds on a core strength. CRE’s core strength is helping you break through challenges and workflow bottlenecks. Call or e-mail an expert Account Executive, or use the Quick Rental Quote form, and get hold of the solutions you need right now!

June 2nd, 2011

We haven’t shown you any cool new tech products in awhile, so lets catch up with this quartet of curious commodities.

1. Acer Iconia Tab A100

Every company wants to make the tablet that will replace our iPad rentals. Many have tried. But in addition to the usual trouble bringing new products to market – design, production, marketing, etc. – Acer has even had an “act of God” delay the launch of its Iconia Tab A100 tablet. The 7-inch unit, powered by a Tegra 2 processor and Google’s Honeycomb OS (Android 3.0), is taking a “tedious trip to market,” according to one tech blogger, because of the earthquake in Japan. First scheduled for a May release, the Iconia won’t be available before July.

2. Nokia Custom C7 Phone

Nokia Custom C7 PhoneIf you have to have the very best of everything, here’s your new cell phone. Based on the C7 model, this new Nokia will cost $1,200+ when it’s released in late 2011 in certain European and Asian countries. It has great features – sharp 3.5-inch screen with the same technology as our LCD touchscreen monitor rentals, 720p video recording, 8-megapixel camera – but the gold plating and leather rear cover make it special. It looks good and is a net-savvy phone that does real work, as discussed in our blog about collaborative workflows.

3. Altec Lansing iM810

Altec Lansing iM810Many iPhone and iPod docks are downright tiny, but the Altec Lansing iM810 takes the old-fashioned approach. The boombox-sized device is now iPhone 4 certified. Also, the gold trim was changed to silver and the amber LED to blue. The unit features a 5.25-inch subwoofer and a seven-band graphic equalizer, and eight D batteries make it portable. In fact, the unit is powerful enough to fill a dance hall, has a microphone input and can be used as a PA for that training session you’re doing with a room full of employees and MacBook Pro rentals.

4. Pioneer AppRadio

The Pioneer AppRadio was the subject of lots of net rumors last month, and the firm has finally released it. Briefly, it’s a big, powerful car stereo that works with Apple’s iOS. With the 800- x 400-pixel, 6.1-inch, multitouch capacitive screen and Bluetooth connectivity, it connects to your iPhone or iPod touch (with iOS 4.2) with a 30-pin connector and the embedded AppRadio app. It goes on sale in late June, sporting an external microphone input, GPS antenna, Google Maps, complete iPod music control and customized apps from Rdio and Pandora.

We keep up on technology – all of it – so that we can be a single source for the expertise and the equipment you need. From office equipment rentals to high-end post-production gear like our render farm rentals, CRE knows what you need, and we know you need it now (or yesterday). One call or e-mail, or a trip to our online Quick Rental Quote form, is all it takes. We’re ready…!

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