Month: September 2012

HP Trickles Traditional Business PCs, Pre-Windows 8

September 29, 2012


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Dells September 19 announcement of new enterprise products struck a forward-thinking tone, typified by next-gen form factors and the soon-to-arrive Windows 8 Professional. The business computers Hewlett-Packard unveiled a day later took a different approach: solid specifications but somewhat traditional design cues.

While future headlines will be dominated by touchscreens and a new OS, HP could still find a market for its new ProBook 4545s and Compaq Pro 6305, both of which run Windows 7. With budget-friendly pricing, the products could appeal to SMBs and institutions, and the ProBooks immediate availability provides an option, unlike the recent Windows 8 announcements, for business users looking to purchase now.

Small-Business Lessons From Harley-Davidson’s Turnaround

September 28, 2012


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This weekend, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how Harley-Davidson turned itself around using lean manufacturing strategies. Lean, or just-in-time, manufacturing is the Toyota production system, which started with W. Edwards Deming and his work with statistical quality control. Whenever I see this kind of article about a large company, I think about how the thoughts and principles can be applied to the smaller companies I work with.

As I read this one, three things occurred to me.

1. The idea behind lean is to create capacity not to reduce employee headcount. In this case, Harley-Davidson reduced its headcount by more than 1,000 people using lean techniques. Harley-Davidson probably can do this just once. If it continues to use lean strategies to reduce headcount, it will see employee enthusiasm for the program wane.

People don’t want to see their jobs go, and they don’t want to see their friends jobs go either. If the layoffs are an economic necessity, they can work. But you can only have so many economic emergencies before people say enough is enough.

My favorite use of lean is to create capacity for more business with the same headcount. I find that employees get excited and stay excited when more business comes into the company. If using lean techniques to make the company better allows for more job security through efficiencies, employees are all for it. If you cut employees in for a piece of the action through bonus programs, so much the better.

2. Installing lean in large companies is much different than installing lean in small ones. Large companies have lots of resources, both economic and human, that they can throw at arrangements like this. Small companies do not.

Still, I’m a big believer in lean activities in small companies. I’ve seen successful implementations increase profits by 50 percent or more. While large companies can afford to do more than one lean project at a time, the small company successes I’ve seen take it one step at a time.

3. Often, we see these activities led by those who have been through MBA. programs. The problem I often see with MBA.s in smaller companies is that their educational training is for making positive changes in large companies. But those changes dont always work in smaller companies with fewer resources. And an understanding of the strategies that do work in small companies is often totally foreign to those with advanced business degrees.

I’ve got nothing against MBA.s. I’ve just come to believe that those with advanced degrees often need to have a complete reset in their beliefs about how successful change is done in a smaller company. Thankfully, there are several programs in the country that concentrate on small businesses.

I found this article very provocative. What do you think?

Josh Patrick is a founder and Principal at Stage 2 Planning Partners where he works with private business owners on wealth management issues.

iPhone 5 Will Benefit Business… Eventually

September 27, 2012


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The arrival of Apples iPhone 5 is a source of much joy for many consumers who long to get their hands on the latest gadget from Cupertino. But right now it might be causing some some headaches for businesses dealing with some half-baked software and potential jumps in their data bills.

Missing in Action

ReadWriteWeb has already covered the ground with Apples upgraded Maps app, which cut the cord with Google Maps data to deliver what can only be described as a sub-optimal experience.

But the problems with Apples Maps app go deeper than just a bit of inconvenience for end users who want to find the nearest grocery store. Its also a kick in the bottom line for the grocery store owners – and other businesses – who may not be listed on Apples source of business information, Yelp. Any business listed on Google Maps and not accurately listed on Apples Maps app stands to lose quite a bit of foot traffic to their establishment.

And there are a lot of potential walk-ins affected. According to The New York Times, even though Android phones far outnumber iPhones… iPhone users account for almost half of mobile traffic to Google Maps.

Serious Implications

Its not just retail businesses missing, either. The site GottaBeMobile ran a search for emergency rooms in San Francisco and found it very lacking.

Searching for an emergency room with an iPhone 5 brings up private medical offices, pharmacies and just about anything else medical related that’s not a hospital or emergency room. Need a concierge house doc? Sure, he’s mapped, but [San Francisco] General Hospital is missing in action. That pediatrics emergency room? It’s there, but it isn’t marked properly, the site reported.

A similar search for hospitals in my city revealed a starting discrepancy. One of the two facilities was correctly listed, but the other is sited at its old location, which closed in 2009 when the hospital relocated to a new facility. The new facility is completely invisible, both in search results and on the standard map labels itself. (Curiously, Yelp itself has the proper location listed correctly.)

Getting A Pass

Passbook is another new iOS 6 feature thats promises a channel for businesses to reach users, and the initial reviews on it arent too glowing, either.

The problem seems to be two-fold right now. Applications have to be upgraded to support Passbook, and many business app developers are still in the process of upgrading their products to accommodate this support. Starbucks, it has been reported, is one of the businesses preparing to add Passbook support to its app.

The other side of the equation is end-user education. There are anecdotal reports of the Passbook being difficult to figure out and then, in some cases, not working correctly.

Unlike the Maps issue, though, this is something that businesses should be able to control. First, theres improving or creating a Passbook-supported app. After that, getting customers trained on how to use the app to connect with Passbook should be factored in to the use equation. This is less than ideal, and some analysts are calling Apple to task for not making sure the process was easier to manage. But this is incremental business were talking about now, not losing existing customers or marketing channels.

LTE Sticker Shock

The addition of 4G LTE capabilities on the new iPhone will bring end-users the ability to download a lot of content in a short amount of time. And that could mean some significiantly bigger data bills at the end of the month. For businesses footing the mobile bills for their employees, the impact on the bottom line could be dramatic – especially as carriers continue to phase out unlimited data plans.

In the short-term, its very likely that businesses will see bigger charges on many employees accounts, as they go a little crazy with all that cool data thats to be had so quickly. It may not be too much of a surprise: any IT department that was already managing LTE-capable Android phones will no doubt have effective policies in place for dealing with data hogs.

The good news is, this increase in cost may only be a temporary phenomenon. By next year, all of the major carriers in the US will have LTE capability, which could start a price war among carriers seeking to differentiate. And the iPhone 5s presence on LTE should give the carriers a swift kick to continue to expand their LTE coverage.

Darkest Before The Dawn

All of these business issues with the iPhone 5 share a common theme: they are all troublesome in the short-term, but in the longer view they may turn out to be of real benefit to businesses.

A more accurate Maps app (as it gets filled in with better data), a more complete Passbook that lets businesses do mobile transactions and cheaper LTE service will ultimately be very good things for businesses seeking to reach customers and keeping their employees connected.

Apple is making some risky bets here, but if they can survive the short-term hiccups, companies stand to do very well with the iPhone 5.

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock.

Running a Business With Staff Scattered Around the World

September 24, 2012


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When Ralph Dandrea needed to hire a handful of employees for his rapidly growing Web design business, he figured he would have no trouble finding information technology professionals. It was 1998, and the technology boom was in full swing. But even though Mr. Dandrea, founder and chief executive of ITX Corporation, based in Pittsford, N.Y., looked all across the country, he struggled to find candidates.

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Heather Ainsworth for The New York Times

Ralph Dandrea’s business, ITX Corporation, is based in Pittsford, N.Y., but most of his employees work overseas.

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So he began looking outside of the United States and discovered a surplus of talented but underworked I.T. professionals in Argentina. “I got 81 really qualified résumés, which blew me away,” he said.

He hired seven of the applicants, but instead of transferring them to Pittsford, just outside of Rochester, he let his new employees work from Argentina. “We had to figure out how to manage projects with people remotely,” he said. “And how do you communicate with them in Spanish?”

Almost 15 years later, Mr. Dandrea is still trying to perfect the relationship. He now has 128 full-time employees, including 72 in South America. Only 42 people report to the main office in Pittsford, and 14 work elsewhere in the United States. “It’s a lot of fun working this way,” he said. “But there are always challenges.”

While there are benefits to employing a far-flung staff — salaries and office overhead may be lower in other countries, for example — it can be difficult to get employees to work cohesively. The suggestions in this guide come from business owners who have tried.

HOLD PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE Ken Cauley, founder of a video game news site,, said the hardest part was creating accountability. The company, which he sold to GameZone in 2010, was based in Detroit, but he worked with 10 employees and 30 freelancers in the United States, Australia, Canada, Honduras and Japan, among other places.

One frequent problem was missed deadlines. “Grand ideas wouldn’t work out,” said Mr. Cauley, now president and founder of Advanced Media, an online advertising company. “And you always had to figure out what happened after a problem occurred.”

His first idea, he said, was to throw money at the problem, thinking that if people were paid more, they would make more time to do the work. That did not help.

In 2006, four years after starting his business, Mr. Cauley decided his staff needed a set of black-and-white rules. He and his employees developed the “Kombo Bible,” a 40-page document that detailed every aspect of the company, including what to do when problems arose and the repercussions for making a mistake.

Soon after, people stopped missing deadlines and productivity increased. Thanks to the handbook, he said, employees knew exactly what would happen if they slacked off.

“If someone ended up getting fired, they knew they were getting fired,” he said. “The accountability issues pretty much dropped to zero.”

Kuty Shalev, founder and chief executive of Clevertech, which builds custom software and applications for wholesale distributors, financial companies and start-ups, has also had to deal with missed deadlines. His company is based in Woodmere, N.Y., and has employees in India, Israel, Pakistan and other places.

Mr. Shalev has employees post a daily goal on Yammer, an internal social network for businesses. His software developers also have to submit their code at the end of the day. If managers find something odd, they investigate.

But missed deadlines are not the worst of his problems. Occasionally, employees do not even show up. He now requires all employees to have cellphones, so he can track them down if they fail to report.

MAKE IT VISUAL Entrepreneurs have to understand and be sensitive to cultural differences, Mr. Shalev said. In other countries, for example, people often need days off to attend religious functions. Some of Mr. Shalev’s employees in Moldova and Ukraine deal with frequent blackouts — he has had to buy generators for some — and one Pakistani employee wanted a day off to sacrifice a goat.

Argentines, Mr. Dandrea said, really like their holidays. They often get one or two days off every month, and if a holiday falls on a Tuesday, he said, people often stay home on Monday, too. One time, a client had a problem on a Friday night, and no one got back to him until Wednesday because the Argentine project manager had two days off. “The customer was incensed,” Mr. Dandrea said.

He has learned to coordinate schedules across countries. If the Argentine office is closed, someone has to make sure colleagues in other countries fill in.

Sometimes, simple communication can be an issue. In some cultures, people say yes a lot — “but they don’t mean yes; they mean they heard you,” Mr. Shalev said.

He has spent long meetings talking about a project and assigning tasks only to get back work that did not reflect his instructions. The best way to get his message across, he has learned, is to “make it visual.” He uses Jing, a program from TechSmith that allows people to share screen shots, videos and images.

“Everyone can understand a photo or video much better than listening to words,” Mr. Shalev said. “That’s even true with staff and clients in the U.S.”

CONNECT YOUR PEOPLE When you see your employees every day, it is easy to tell if someone has the blues. But what if you only talk to them on the phone? “I’ve gotten two weeks’ notice and had no idea something was wrong,” Mr. Dandrea said. “There’s no griping at the water cooler that will get back to you.”

When employees are off-site, it is easy to ignore the “commitment conversation,” as Mr. Dandrea calls it, which is why he makes sure his managers have regular discussions with staff members. Managers have been taught to give a lot of feedback and even to ask directly how an employee is feeling. “We look for chinks in the armor,” he said.

He also uses an online recognition program called Potential Point that allows people to reward others virtually for a job well done. When someone in the United States nominates someone from Argentina for doing good work on a project, the entire company sees the nomination.

Michael Brody-Waite, chief executive and co-founder of InQuicker, a company that creates software that displays wait times at emergency rooms and doctors’ offices, often sends his Nashville-based employees to spend three days at the company’s other office — a coffee shop, technically — in British Columbia. “When they visit the guys in Canada, they end up surfing, hiking and snowboarding,” Mr. Brody-Waite said. “The idea is to be more natural with each other.”

WATCH YOUR OWN HOURS Perhaps the biggest problem with a far-flung staff is the temptation for the boss to work around the clock.

Mr. Shalev said it was hard to turn off when he knew there were employees working as he was getting ready for bed. The first few years running his company, he said, he often got caught up with something and did not go to bed until 3 a.m.

To avoid a 24-hour workday, Mr. Shalev asks his overseas employees to work as close as possible to 9 to 5 Eastern Standard Time. That means some people have to start working at 5 a.m. Others start in the afternoon, take time off for dinner and finish at night.

As much work as it has taken Mr. Dandrea to run a successful business across multiple countries, he said he had no regrets about his 1998 excursion to Argentina. “Working virtually,” he said, “gives us access to so much more talent.”

Roaring Fork Business Resource Center: a virtual business incubator

September 23, 2012


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Stephanie Keister, center, marketing and operations manager for the Roaring Fork Business Resource Center, accepted a community grant from Wells Fargo on behalf of the center at a luncheon in Glenwood Springs on Wednesday. Also shown, representing Wells Fargo are, business banking manager Don Hannon, left, and business banker Charlene Revoir, right.

Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal praises Obama’s business side

September 22, 2012


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CHARLOTTE, NC Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal took a turn in the political spotlight Wednesday night, making a business case for re-electing President Obama and saying the incumbent understands what the private sector needs to succeed.

Speaking at the Democratic National Convention, Sinegal pushed back against the argument by Republicans and some business allies that entrepreneurs succeed on their own.

Some of my friends in corporate America say that all they need is a government that gets off the backs of businesses, Sinegal said to the crowd at the Time Warner Cable Arena.

But I think they get it all wrong. Business needs a president who has covered the backs of businesses, he said, citing Obamas support of public investments in education, research and infrastructure.

Sinegal was part of a concerted Democratic effort Wednesday to contest the GOPs reputation as the more pro-business party while simultaneously attacking the ethics of Republican nominee Mitt Romneys own business record at private-equity firm Bain Capital.

Several business leaders spoke before Sinegal, including Austin Ligon, co-founder of the used-car retailer CarMax, who praised Obama for rescuing domestic car manufacturers from collapse.

Sinegals support for Obama is no surprise. He has long been a major Democratic donor and hosted Obama at a pair of fundraisers at his Hunts Point home on Lake Washington in July. He and his wife, Janet, have donated more than $107,000 to Democratic candidates and committees since 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit group that tracks money in politics.

Sinegals speech began at about 7 pm Pacific just ahead of the nights headliners, Massachusetts Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren and former President Clinton.

He spoke calmly, frequently staring at notes on the lectern in front of him. The speech drew cheers, though nothing close to the adulation that greeted Warren.

The longtime CEO of Issaquah-based Costco who retired earlier this year, Sinegal touted the companys creation of hundreds of thousands of American jobs, boasting of plans to hire 7,000 more people in the next year, jobs with the highest wages among our peers and good health coverage.

His speech represented a pushback against the Republicans We Built It slogan, which was repeated frequently at the GOP convention in Tampa last week.

That line was based on a comment that President Obama made in a campaign stop this summer. In a speech arguing that everyone benefits from public education, roads and other infrastructure, Obama said, If youve got a business you didnt build that. Somebody else made that happen.

The GOP has replayed the quote repeatedly, saying Obama was revealing his contempt for the hard work of business owners. But several nonpartisan fact-checking organizations have rejected the GOPs framing of the quote as dishonest.

In an interview before his speech Wednesday, Sinegal said he agrees with Obamas point that businesses even if built on the risk and sweat of individuals owe something to the country that allowed them to succeed.

I wouldnt be where I am today if I hadnt had the opportunity to have been afforded a great education at a state university, said Sinegal, who graduated from San Diego State University.

Youd have to be a fool not to recognize that you got a lot of help along the way, he said.

If that thinking is at odds with some conservative private-sector purists in the business world, thats a reflection of the way Sinegal and his Costco co-founder Jeff Brotman have always operated.

Costco has always thought about the world in its own way, said Edward Weller, a retired stock analyst who followed Costco almost since its first warehouse store opened in 1983. He said he has seen it put customers interests ahead of the companys, and employees interests ahead of shareholders in the short term, believing it paid long-term gains. For example, Costco refused to make big job cuts or slash workers health-insurance benefits during the recession.

Politically, Weller said, Sinegal doesnt believe in the myth of Obama being a tax-and-spend nut. Hes always been a socially conscious guy whos tried to be responsible to his community. Plainly he doesnt believe in big government, but in a strong and responsive safety net.

Sinegal, in the interview, said he lines up philosophically with Obama on the notion that a booming economy flows from the wallets of middle-class consumers, not the fortunes of the rich.

It doesnt do any good for Costco to have the lowest price on a 70-inch TV set if nobody can afford to buy one, he said.

Seattle Times staff reporter Melissa Allison and news researcher Gene Balk contributed to this story.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or . On Twitter @Jim_Brunner.

Connecting with traditional business language and conventions

September 21, 2012


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John Hagel, who Ive recorded conversations with for this blog previously, says some sensible things in a piece by executive editor of MIT Sloan Management Review magazines Innovation Hubs section David Kiron.

John essentially adds some comments around exceptions to update a report Deloitte put out mid last year titled Social Software for Business Performance – The missing link in social software: Measurable business performance improvements , which echoed the gestalt of those of us thinking about how to accelerate business performance with social and collaborative software back then.

From my perspective academia has tended to obscure the reality that early 2.0 use of shadow IT was effectively knowledge workers informal blue collar ingenious git r done reactions to the rigid process bound enterprise software tools that made completing their tasks time consuming and difficult. They found quicker ways to get things done with more agile, informal tools.

Fast forward from that Web 2.0 era six or so years ago and now everyone and his brother has appended free interaction tool features onto rigid process enterprise software, aiming to act as a social lubricant to enable transfer of tacit knowledge and contextual group workflow dialog around the work at hand.

I recall discussing Hagel – whose work I respect – with an exec at a large company where I was consulting around three years ago, who told me that at an event he attended back then, the audience were streaming for the exits when Hagel came on stage. This was not because of any major disrespect for Hagel – although some dislike the Hagel, Brown and Davisons Big Shift Return on Assets economic performance ideas – but because he wasnt speaking the classical language of bean counters and business processes, the focus of the rest of the conference.

Meanwhile, according to CNBC today

The United States has slipped further down a global ranking of the worlds most competitive economies, according to a World Economic Forum (WEF) survey released on Wednesday.

The worlds largest economy, which was placed 5th last year, fell two positions to the 7th spot – marking its fourth year of decline.

hellip;.The survey, which has been conducted annually for over three decades, ranks the competitiveness of 144 countries based on 12 key indicators including infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, labor market efficiency and innovation.

Despite declining in the overall ranking, the forum highlighted that the US remains one of the worlds top innovators – supported by an excellent university system – and continues to offer vast opportunities because of the sheer size of its domestic economy.

David Kirons MIT Sloan Management Reviewdiscussion with Hagel, titled How Finding Exceptions Can Jump Start Your Social Initiative takes another stab at defining value propositions that could appeal to process and bean counter logic – Hagel believes that

…about 60 percent to 70 percent of the headcount time in most functions within an enterprise are consumed by handling exceptions, things that get thrown out of automated processes. Its an exception when it doesnt comply with policies or the rules of the process an individual has to go and resolve it, typically by scrambling around because they cant resolve it on their own. They need to get a number of other people engaged to help. That is a hugely inefficient process today.

Hagel goes on to discuss how analyzing the data patterns made visible by these activities is of high value (ideas which are being amplified by SAPs Hana and IBMs Watson by their respective marketing machines), culminating in dangling the idea of dashboards of useful process and financial data under execs noses. Metrics that Matter is Deloittes line…

Its a good piece and well worth reading, and its always great to see material being circulated which isnt going to be immediately dismissed as no value fluff by execs.

A couple of realities are that large enterprises often dont know how the fingers of one hand are interacting, let alone left hand, right hand whole body analogieshellip;many execs are striving to make a profit and loss silo they are running make sense, and thats what they are being judged on. The risk/reward of being more holistic is typically both questionable and potentially stepping on other execs toes, unless of course thats their remit.

Most of the US innovation the World Economic Forum refers to is typically being performed by fresh new entities inside older institutions, or by disruptive new firms.

Getting people engaged to help each other, a hugely inefficient process today, can have major political issues in some corporate cultures. Its doable, but understanding how to navigate the whats in it for me to share traps is arguably far more important than what enabling technologies you chose to use. Execs are typically very canny political animals and have strong intuition about threats, success factors and promise/reward propositions.

Whats slowly shifting is the very fabric of how we interact around processes, and ironically what is taught and amplified by academia in business schools is in some cases slowing this maturation down – and meanwhile the global economy in our current climate rewards those who are most agile…


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East Peoria business agrees to cut back non-stop noise

September 19, 2012


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Quality and environmental manager Anthony Brown of Automotive Robotics Proving Labs at Five Altorfer Lane in East Peoria says that since their business is in a industrial area it was a surprise that motor testing was stretching across I74 all the way up to the residences barely visible up on Fondulac Drive.

ABC Business News ABC News

September 18, 2012


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ITS BUYING 102-point-xxxxx U-S CENTS





The iPhone 5: Worth It for Your Business?

September 16, 2012


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The date is booked. The stage at San Franciscos Yerba Buena Center is being set. On Wed., Sept. 12, Apple due to announce the newest version of its iPhone. And while CEO Tim Cook has said the Cupertino, Calif.-based company is doubling down on its legendary secrecy, Apples factories abroad have doubled as rumor mills, feeding the media a buffet of classified details. Will the new iPhone change how you do business? Let the alleged new features help you decide.

Larger screen:
From its dimensions to its construction, the screen is said to be the biggest change from the iPhone 4S. Older iPhones had a 3.5-inch screen. But a new version could have a 4-inch screen with a taller body and a thinner bezel (the space between the screen and the edge of the phone). On the hardware end, this may seem a relatively easy feat, but the decision is a difficult one for Apple from an app developer perspective, as this article on iMore explains. Apple is also reportedly using a different method to construct the display, making the handset thinner, lighter and more responsive than previous models.

Bottom line: More inches mean more pixels, which could wreak havoc for existing apps. If youre in the mobile software business, get ready to update your product.

Near field communications (NFC):
A rumored addition to the iPhone since the 3Gs model was released, NFC technology can enable people to use their handsets as mobile wallets, by just tapping the device on specially-equipped readers at a check-out counter. NFC phones have been out since 2006, and Android has supported it since 2011, making the technology part of its Google Wallet feature. And though Apple Insider posted photos of alleged iPhone 5 parts with an NFC chip, the forthcoming iOS 6 (which the new handset will run), does not support the technology. Instead, Apple is touting Passbook, a software-based payment strategy, as a key feature.

Related:5 Things to Consider Before Buying a Smartphone or Tablet for Business

Bottom line: The future of point-of-sale transactions will change dramatically after iPhone 5 is launched. The question is how.

Dock connector:
The 30-pin dock connector that launched with the original iPhone remains largely the same since 2007. To cram more magic into all that metal and glass, Apple engineers have had to work around it for years. Experts are nearly united in their belief that a new, smaller plug will debut on the iPhone 5. Cult of Mac has a repost of the Italian Metablogs thoughts on how that would look.

Bottom line: From docking-station builders to protective-case makers, everyone in the iPhone universe will have to retool their wares.

Fasterprocessor and wireless data:

Apple has done a great job of moving away customers from a fascination on specifications, but theres still an insatiable thirst for speed, and a need for numbers to back it up. The iPhone 4 ran on Apples A4 processor, while iPad 2 and iPhone 4S have the A5, a CPU which Apple claims to be twice as fast. The iPad 3 uses the A5X, which handles graphics (but not processes) twice as quickly. A blurry image posted on 9to5Mac shows there may be an A6 processor onboard the upcoming iPhone, which makes sense, since the A5X was designed with extra brawn to power a 9.7-inch Retina display. The new iPhone will need a processing, not graphics, bump. There are also rumors aplenty about this iPhone finally having 4G networking capabilities. Weve been hearing that claim for years, though this time its as likely a possibility as ever.

Bottom line:The iPhone 5 is going to be faster than any previous model — and certainly quick enough to make an impact on to your business.

Related:Forget the iPhone 5. Apples iPad Mini Might Be Better for Business

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