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It's A Mad, Mobile World

Get an up-close and personal look at the most popular mobile devices used by members of Progressive Grocer's Independent Grocer Network. By Joseph Tarnowski

I'm a gadget guy — I live online; own a desktop PC, a netbook with an 8.5-inch screen and a 4G Broadband wireless modem, an e-reader, and a Nokia E71x Smart-phone, which syncs to my laptop and can view and edit Microsoft Office documents; and will soon be the new owner of the latest-generation iPhone by the time this is in print.

Inspired by the plethora of mobile devices in my mad, mobile world, I sought input from members of Progressive Grocer's Independent Grocer Network about what devices they're using to meet their business needs, as well as how they're using them, via IGN's discussion forum. What follows is a variety of verbatim responses we received, edited and condensed for brevity's sake:

I've always been a PC kind of guy, but this phone is the bomb.” —Ben Wells, CIO, Paul's Fruit Market, Louisville, Ky.

Michael Lindsay, VP, Paramount Foods Inc., d.b.a. Piggly Wiggly, Clinton, N.C.

BlackBerry curve 8330 — It syncs with our exchange server for mobile e-mail and calendar. We also use BlackBerry messenger for phone-to-phone messages that are nested. (To me, it's better than texts if the other party has a BlackBerry). It's also very useful for mobile Twitter and Facebook[posts/feeds], as we are experimenting with social media for our [stores].

I also have an HP Netbook with Windows 7 for browsing the Internet and better e-mail support for looking at attachments that are not real friendly on the BlackBerry. The Netbook also serves for remote access to office and store servers.

My favorite “gadget,” though, is my Kindle. I can carry my books with me and read virtually any time I have a few minutes. Over-the-air books and syncs to Kindle for PC if I am in front of the Netbook or desktop and don't have the Kindle with me. If you like to read, (and you should), it's a fantastic addition.

Marty Jarvis, Director of Marketing, B&R Stores Inc., Lincoln, Neb.

My mobile device is a cell phone. I would love to go 3C, but I'm in the office too much to justify it. So, if I need to need the Internet or Office documents while away from the office, I undock my laptop and strap it to my back.

Gina Rau, Marketing Product Director, Aisle 7, Portland, Ore.

I just bought a HTC Hero Android (for Sprint) and love it. It works similar to an iPhone, but I can actually get reception at my home and have more than one app open at a time. I'm a Google gal and love how integrated everything is. The Android OS is growing in popularity quickly, which means that more and more killer apps are being developed for it.

Since we're building custom apps for our grocery clients, I also have an iPod Touch (my kids love the games, too!). It allows me to pass the time on the train when I can't get reception, and stay current with other apps in the retail, food and health-and-wellness space.

We should revisit this forum question every six to nine months — I bet we'll get new answers each time!

“The Android OS is growing in popularity quickly, which means that more and more killer apps are being developed for it …. We should revisit this forum question every six to nine months — I bet we'll get new answers each time!” —Gina Rau, Marketing Product Director, Aisle 7, Portland, Ore.

Dave Minns, EVP, Aisle 7, Portland, Ore.

I use an iPhone, though I've owned and used a Palm Pilot, BlackBerry, and Palm Treo running Windows CE. I've owned three iPhones since their launch date, from the first edition to the 3G to my latest 3GS. It is no doubt the most useful consumer electronics device/tool that I've ever owned. I have my tools (a.k.a. apps) organized around daily use on my homepage (e-mail, maps, Google Search, Twitter, Camera, Weather and Calendar) and then several other pages of apps, including news (from sports to local to national to world news … from mainstream to social media), travel (tons of useful apps that help me to be productive while on the road for business), food-related (from dining to recipes to deals to reservations), shopping (from the likes of eBay to Amazon), personal finance (insurance, banking, stocks, real estate), lifestyle (fitness apps, blogs via Web browser, and movies and sporting events, including ticketing), productivity tools for work and play (FedEx, WebEx, SalesForce, etc.), and, of course, games for my kids for long road trips and [air travel]. I love my iPhone.

Vicki Lape, IT Network Administrator, Jungle Jim's International Market, Fairfield, Ohio

I have a Motorola Droid, which I love. I use it for e-mail accounts, my calendar — which syncs with the office, Facebook and messaging, maps with GPS, music and videos, other Internet apps, some fun and handy gadgets like DroidLight (a flashlight) that I've used several times — and, oh yeah, let us not forget... as a phone … I'm on call for the store for support.

At the store, we use various software programs for supporting Jungle Jim's network, computers and servers, and registers. At home have an HP laptop and an iPod. If I need to dial in the store on the laptop, I use Cisco VPN. To access servers, computers or registers at the store once connected (and from my work computer), I use Dameware. It works better then VNC for support. Also use Citrix products, such as Go To Meeting, to get vendors dialed in for support when needed.

Ben Wells, CIO, Paul's Fruit Market, Louisville, Ky.

Smartphone: iPhone - 3Gs - 32 gig - I'm able to open and edit Office documents, sync with Outlook and even run remote desktop or logmein with it. I've always been a PC kind of guy, but this phone is the bomb. Fast processor, fast connection, and it just works. I had a Windows Mobile HTC, but the iPhone kicks its butt! I even have an application that uses the camera as a bar code scanner!

In-store Mobile: Motorola MC 9090 - This is basically the same as the Symbol 9090. There's nothing outrageously special about this machine except that it's highly industrial and has been drop tested at 15 feet. Personally, I've drop tested it at 6 feet, and it bounces!

Laptop: Dell, 15 Processor, 4g RAM, Windows Pro, AT&T 3G modem. Fast, affordable and AT&T's service in my area is superior.

Between the computers and call forwarding, I can work from home and no one knows the difference!

Dean Walker, President, Boyer's Food Markets, Orwigsburg, Pa.

I'm a gadget guy also … I've had an iPhone, and now use an HTC Hero Droid phone. I've been moving more and more to Google apps, so this phone works great. I use Google Calendar instead of Outlook, so I've got my calendar synced and backed up over the air all the time. Same with the address book. Phone crashes … get a new phone, turn it on and sync calendar and address book back up immediately. No activity to do, no plugging it in to sync — it's just always synced. I really like the Droid phone over Apple. Same apps without the headache. Apple was a pain to update firmware all the time, always crashed … locked up, too much time and didn't sync well to older MS stuff.

I use voice-recording apps all the time to take notes. I love being able to shoot a decent hi-res photo (5MP) or video with it, and can send it right to the team to address issues. My smartphone is more important than my laptop. No longer need to take a laptop on vacation. Nothing I can't do on my phone.

Aaron Floersch, COO, CIO, Ray's Apple Markets, Clay Center, Kan.

I am a big gadget guy as well. I use a Droid X on Verizon, and I absolutely love this thing. I sync my e-mail and calendar with Gmail and outlook. Our company uses Google apps, so I can bring up everyone else's calendar at any time to find out where they are or to schedule a meeting. The best tool that I use the most is the voice recognition. I dictate e-mails and text to it just by speaking, and it is very, very accurate. I have the weather that follows me by GPS. Our company also uses Google talk on our Droid phones and on our computers, so we can instant-message someone and it will show up both on their computer and on their phone, so they can answer wherever they happen to be.

Our front end software company just came out with an app for droids that has sales up to date live. It also shows also cashier voids, cancels, not in files, and many other areas on a store-level basis. They are working on cashier monitoring as well with the same app, so you can watch an actual cashier ring up a customer in live time. For a desktop computer, I have a custom built 17 Windows 7 that is lightning-fast. I have set up all of our store managers with 24-inch computer monitors with built-in webcams. We use Skype for quick video conferences when we need to.

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