Category: Tablet Computers

Google Maps has now come back to the iPhone

Article

Google Maps is now available for iPhone | Official Google Blog

App Store location

Google Maps

My Comments

Previously, people who used the iPhone or iPad had the Google Maps provided as an integrated mapping solution for their devices. Then, when iOS 6 was launched, Apple decided to pull the Google Maps from the operating system and substitute it with a poor-quality mapping solution.

This has led to situations like people ending up in the wrong location and nearly dying, and the Victoria Police advising against using Apple Maps because of this poor-quality mapping.

There was so much criticism of this mapping solution that Apple had to bow to public demand and create an app group for third-party mapping apps for their iOS devices. Now, the Google Maps mapping solution has been made available to iOS 6 users through a downloadable app. This has the advantages of the Google Maps such as vector-driven maps, 3D views, turn-by-turn navigation and Street View but ported to the iOS platform.

For those of you who are still working with that trusty old iPhone 3GS, this app can work with that phone. Infact, any of you who are updating an iPhone or iPad to iOS 6 should infact factor in deploying Google Maps along with YouTube on the device as part of the update plans in order to gain the full benefit of these popular services on that iDevice. Similarly, when you buy that new iPhone or iPad, it may be a good idea to make these apps your first downloads from the App Store as part of commissioning that new device.

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Microsoft now to enter the 7-inch gaming tablet market

Article

Xbox Surface gaming tablet reportedly in the works | Microsoft – CNET News

My Comments

What I see of Microsoft’s XBox Surface tablet is Microsoft entering a very competitive portable gaming marketplace with a coat-pocket-sized tablet tuned for games.

The portable-games market is competing in different ways with 3”-5” options in the form of the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS gaming handhelds as well as the iOS and Android app stores becoming full of games that can be downloaded to an iPhone or Android phone. Even Microsoft is competing against this device through the availability of games in its Windows Phone app store that are ready to download to one’s Windows Phone. There are even some handheld devices like the Apple iPod Touch and a few Android-driven MP3 players that can work well as handheld games consoles. But they don’t have wireless broadband or mobile-phone capabilities in them.

But the 7” coat-pocket-size tablet is showing up to be a capable portable gaming form factor. This was initially “owned” by the Android operating system with devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7, the Toshiba AT150 and the Google Nexus 7 having access to the gaming catalogue in the Google Play app store. Some of these devices are driven by the NVIDIA Tegra chipsets which are rated as having very good game prowess. As well, Sony had built a subset of the PlayStation gaming franchise for the Android platform by having certain high-performance Android smartphones, mostly their Xperia phones, “certified” for the name and establishing an app store for that franchise. Lately, Apple brought the iOS mobile platform in to the foray with the arrival of the iPad Mini, thus introducing another mobile platform in to this form factor.

No doubt, Microsoft doesn’t want to miss out on the party where you can quickly bring out of that coat pocket a small tablet computer and begin to play one of many games ranging from Angry Birds through the “games of a misspent youth” (pool, pinball or arcade games) to an intense action-adventure title. This could yield in a highly-competitive gaming environment for this form factor.

As far as the multi-player multi-machine gaming could go for this platform, it will primarily be an “online-driven” environment with little effort on local or venue-driven gaming.

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Why purchase as much storage capacity as you can afford when you buy a computing device

Toshiba Tecra R950 business laptop

Toshiba Tecra R950 business laptop

Very often, I notice people who are buying a computer, tablet or similar device purchase the device based on the price without thinking of the issue of the unit’s secondary-storage capacity.

But in most situations, the cheaper variants of these devices have lesser storage capacity. This may not be an issue if the device is serving as a secondary computing device and you are likely to either use a auxiliary storage devices like external hard disks, removable SD cards or cloud-hosted / network-hosted storage with the device regularly. What can happen as you use that iPad or laptop is that the main storage capacity fills up and it feels as though there is a noose around your neck as there is less storage capacity on your device for you to store programs or data. In some situations, the device doesn’t perform as well as it should.

You also think of having to frequently purge your system of data that may be “put away” but is to be on hand for use at a later time. In some cases, this activity may cause you to dump data that you may later regret dumping.

Toshiba AT300 10" Android tablet computer

Toshiba AT300 10″ Android tablet computer

But you can avoid this with new computing devices especially those you expect to use as your main computing devices if you buy or specify as much storage capacity as you can afford. For example, I encouraged someone who was in the market for an iPad to think of the higher-capacity models because people tend to have them full of photos, music, email and apps very quickly.

In most cases, your device’s storage capacity can be a key bargaining point when choosing that device. For example, you may have something of AUD$100-200 between one storage class and another more capacious storage class for a tablet or a laptop. Some dealers may also try to offer the variant with more capacity for the same price as the model that you are after and have budgeted on.

There is also a reality that as time passes on, the cost of data storage does reduce for a particular capacity due to Moore’s Law.

So if I buy or specify a computing device for someone, especially if the device is expected to be a main or sole computing device, I would make sure that there is as much hard disk, SSD or other storage space as you can afford.

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A coat-pocket slate that runs iOS at last

Articles

Apple iPad Mini — it’s real, and it has a new design | Apple – CNET News

iPad Mini: $329, 7.9-inch screen (hands-on) | CNet

My Comments

There has been the rumours occurring on the IT blogs about Apple coming up with a small “iPad Mini” device. This is although nearly every company who manufactures Android tablets is running at least one 7” model that can you can stuff in to your overcoat pocket as part of the range.

Now Apple has answered the competitors with a 7” iOS-based device in the form of the iPad Mini. Of course there will still be the price premium associated with Apple devices and these will have storage starting from 16Gb and also having LTE connectivity as a product option. The iPad Mini will also be running iOS 6 as its operating platform.

What I see of this is that if you are buying a tablet computer, you have the ability to choose either an Android tablet or an Apple iPad. But you also have the choice of either a large 10” slate that you can rest on your knee while lounging on the couch or rest on the table; or a small 7” variety that you can comfortably stuff in to your handbag or coat pocket and bring out whenever you are out and about.

I am not writing this as an Apple fanboi would by suggesting that you go and buy the iPad Mini as the preferred 7” slate but am seeing this more as Apple at last offering this device size for their iOS products.

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Product Review–Toshiba AT300 10” Android tablet computer

Introduction

I am reviewing the Toshiba AT300 which is their current-model 10” Android consumer tablet computer. Compared to most other tablet computers, it is available in only one configuration which is a 16Gb unit which works only from Wi-Fi wireless networks.

Toshiba AT300 10" Android tablet computer

Price
– reviewed configuration
RRP AUD$539
Processor NVIDIA Tegra 3
RAM 1Gb
Screen 10” widescreen (1280×800) LED-backlit LCD
User Memory 16Gb SDXC reader
Operating environment Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
Bluetooth 3.0
USB 1 x MicroUSB 2.0,
USB 2.0 via proprietary docking plug
Audio 3.5mm audio input-output (headset) jack, audio output via proprietary docking plug, digital audio via HDMI
Video microHDMI, HDMI via proprietary docking plug.
Performance Index Quadrant 3985 (below ASUS Transformer Prime TF201)

The unit itself

Aesthetics and build quality

The Toshiba AT300 was well built for a good-quality tablet and had a metal-mesh backing. It was also well finished even though the glossy touchscreen was able to get the fingerprints too easily.

As for temperature control, this unit was able to keep its cool thanks to he mesh backing. This may be important if we see Android apps that work the Tegra 3 ARM processor very hard.

Display

The Toshiba AT300 tablet’s display was very responsive to the touchscreen input, showing the results very quickly and rendering the animations that Android Ice Cream Sandwich put up very quickly. Still pictures come through very crisply with this tablet, making it suitable to use as a photo viewer or digital photo frame for home or business.

For video playback, the display subsystem even shone with the smoothness even when fed the video via an on-demand video service. As I have said before, the glossy display is still prone to be too reflective in broad daylight.

Audio

The Toshiba AT300 played some music files from my networl-attached storage device as well as Internet hosted audio like Internet radio and this worked very smoothy. The sound quality was very good when I used the device with  lot of slim devices, audio quality doesn’t make it with the integrated speakers

The Toshiba Media Player app that comes with this tablet is no crapware – it works properly with DLNA media servers as well as content hosted locally on the tablet. I tried this out with music and photos held on a WD NAS that uses the TwonkyMedia Server software as its DLNA media server.

Connectivity and Expandability

Toshiba AT300 10" Android tablet docking connector

The docking connector that the tablet uses for charging and data transfer

The Toshiba AT300 used a MicroUSB data port but also used a proprietary docking connector for its power supply. This is to primarily work with a tablet dock that Toshiba supplies as an optional extra, where it has an audio output, standard USB connectors and standard HDMI connector.

But the MicroUSB connector could be a data / power port so you can use the standard MicroUSB cable with a charger rather than worrying whether you have the Toshiba cable or not. There is also a microHDMI connector that you can use with a suitable cable to connect to HDMI-equipped external displays.

Toshiba AT300 10" Android tablet side connections - SD card, microUSB, microHDMI and headphone jack

Side connections – SD card slot, microUSB port, microHDMI port and headphone/microphone jack

Like most Android tablets, the Toshiba has an integrated SD card reader which you can use to effectively expand your tablet’s memory. This is also handy if you want to use the tablet to review and edit your images that you just took with your digital camera.

Performance

The Toshiba AT300 10” Android tablet performed as expected for a good-quality Android tablet using the NVIDIA Tegra chipset.

The network performance was very smooth for most activities including video streaming. The unit was also very sensitive for the Wi-Fi reception.

I ran the Quadrant Android performance test and found that this unit comes in at a benchmark of 3985 which works just under the ASUS Transformer Prime TF201 hybrid tablet. This shows that it can come up properly with its peers as far as computing and graphics performance go.

As far as the battery life was concerned, the battery yielded 80% left after I watched one hour of on-demand video via the home network. It was also very frugal with the battery for most other activities.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

If Toshiba were to create a tablet that is a viable iPad alternative, they could supply a variant with an integrated wireless broadband modem. On the other hand, this tablet could just be used with the home Wi-Fi network, a public-access Wi-Fi network, a “Mi-Fi” router or an Android phone that supports Wi-Fi tethering.

Toshiba AT300 10" Android tabletAs well, I would like to see this tablet put in the queue for the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update in order to satisfy newer expectations that would be required of this platform.

Conclusion

This may be a hard decision to call but I would recommend the Toshiba AT300 as a 10” consumer-grade highly-capable alternative to the Apple iPad. This is more so if you value the tablet to he just about up to date on the operating environment and expect it to be used for multimedia, games, email-reading and Web-surfing while in bed or on the couch. Business users could value it for use as part of digital visual merchandising efforts, as a large-screen reference book or quick-view information terminal.

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A pressure-sensitive Bluetooth 4.0 Stylus to turn the iPad in to a digitizer

Article

Pressure-Sensitive Bluetooth 4.0 Stylus Coming to iPad#xtor=RSS-181#xtor=RSS-181#xtor=RSS-181#xtor=RSS-181

My Comments

The Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready ability that the Apple iPad has now is being considered of use. Here, Ten One Design have introduced a pressure-sensitive stylus that works with this touchscreen tablet and turns it in to a digitizer. This has the ability to increase the thickness and darkness of a line as you add pressure to the stylus in a similar vein to the real pen or pencil

Six of the iOS drawing apps provide inherent support for this stylus with more on the way. Here, the developers would have to integrate the functionality for this device in their software to have it work. As well, it would require you to work with the files being held on your iPad.

But, with appropriate bridging apps for the iOS platform and the MacOS X and Windows regular computing platforms, this could make it feasible for an iPad that is tethered to a regular computer to become an improved version of one of those “digitizers” or “graphics tablets”. These devices had a tablet surface and a stylus so you could trace hand-drawn graphics or do freehand drawing in to a graphics program. In some cases, these tablets also were a command surface for some CAD programs where you entered drawing commands by “picking” them using the stylus.

Here, the combination of an always-updatable touchscreen display could allow for a variety of options for this class of work. For example, it could permit the direct edit of work on the iPad while using the main screen as an overview display. This could include freehand digitizing and drawing with the iPad providing a natural “paper” feedback and the work appearing on the graphics program.

Similarly, a CAD / CAM program could benefit from turning the iPad in to a “tabbed” command tablet with the stylus being used to “pick” the commands.

Here, the idea of a Bluetooth stylus or, in some cases, a “puck” could make the iOS or Android tablet earn its keep in the CAD or graphics-design office rather than just as a tool for media consumption.

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Two-screen TV viewing a strong trend

Article

The Future Of TV Is Two Screens, One Held Firmly In Your Hands | Fast Company

My Comments

There is something that is becoming a reality with TV. It is where our TV-viewing sessions are involving two screens – one large screen carrying the main video and one smaller screen that we are holding in our hands.

This has been brought about by the popularity of the tablet, laptop and smartphone which are serving the second-screen role.

Some of us may think it is just for checking email or the activities of our Facebook Friends or Twitter followers. But a fair bit of this activity is to do with the content itself.

For example, one could be using GetGlue, Fango or other TV-related social networks to find out who is watching this show and what others have to say about it. Similarly, one could be checking the show’s Website and looking at other information and commentary that exists there. These are activities that may not work well on the big screen.

Similarly, most big-screen applications cannot support multiple concurrent logins for social-network or similar uses; and they are typically require “pick’n’choose” or “SMS-style” text entry.

In the case of news, a good quote for this is that “the revolution doesn’t have to be televised”. Here, one could be checking other news resources to verify the veracity of a news story, which can be very difficult during election time. This is augmented through comment feeds and Tweet feeds that are set up during news events like the one I participated in during the UK parliamentary inquire in to the News Corporation phone hacking scandal where I was dropping Tweets in to the feed from a Fujitsu laptop that I was reviewing. Similarly the scoreboard apps that I have mentioned about previously could simply work as an always-live scoreboard display during a sporting event and some sports like cricket or racing may benefit from these apps further by displaying supplementary scores like track position or bowling scores.

Of course, the commercials as we know them will be hamstrung by the two-screen viewing experience. This is more so as the traditional goal of eyeballs at the screen during ad breaks is reduced more. Here one could be following up information on the second screen while the ads play on; as well as visiting the kitchen or bathroom or stoking up the log fire. But the information that one could be following up on can relate to what was in the TV program; or it could be to follow up on something that was advertised during that ad break or a previous ad break.

As I have noticed and observed, this concept of two-screen TV is hard to adjust to for some people, especially the older generation who are more interested in focusing directly on the screen. It may be us simply glancing down at that smartphone or tablet so we can know further what is going on with some events.

I see this as becoming an interesting chain of events as we integrate in to an online and highly-interactive media-consumption life.

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Repost–USB Audio in Android Jelly Bean to mean more in the way of accessories

I am reposting this to make sure that the link to the product review is working properly for RSS, email and Facebook subscribers

Article

Gear4 speaker dock supports USB audio for Jelly Bean at Google I/O 2012 (hands-on video) — Engadget

My Comments

Sony CMT-MX750Ni Internet-enabled music system main unit

An iPod-enabled music system that can also benefit from Android’s new USB Audio interface

Apple iOS users have had the advantage of also having a USB single-wire or docking connection between their iOS device and accessory equipment, with the ability to channel the sound data, the control signals and power to their device using the same connection. This has built up the iPod / iPhone accessory market very strongly with the accessories allowing the user to start and stop the music or move between tracks and folders on their iPod or iPhone using the control surface that the accessory provides.

People who used Google Android devices were limited to an analogue or Bluetooth audio link between an amplification device and their smartphone or tablet with support for transport control if the phone was connected via Bluetooth. They typically had to run a separate USB cable if they wanted to supply power to the Android device from that accessory.

Now the latest iteration of the Android platform, known as “Jelly Bean” and version number 4.1, supports USB Audio. This is similar to how a USB speaker system or external sound card can work with most desktop operating systems. It can then allow a large manufacturer base to develop “Android-friendly” audio playback equipment like speakers, Internet radios and hi-fi amplifiers / receivers in a timeframe that allows the device to be “ready-to-market” quickly.

What could be looked at

Communications audio

There are some questions I have about this kind of setup. One is whether the USB Audio functionality in Android Jelly Bean can allow for communications audio as well as audio content from the media player program. This would be of importance with automotive applications where the USB Audio link could be used as an alternative to Bluetooth for hands-free telephony in the car.

Device control

The other issue to look at is exposing the accessory device’s control surface as a control point for the Android device’s communications and media-playback functions. This situation would be of importance for accessory devices which have other audio or video sources like broadcast tuners, optical-disc players or USB Mass-Storage device connection. In the automotive context, it also extends to nearly all car infotainment setups that allow the user to make or take a call using the controls on the dashboard.

Here, it could be feasible for the accessory to control the media player or phone user interface using either the screen on the Android device or using the controls on the accessory. Here, it could allow for “basic” transport control and metadata display on the accessory device while advanced “search and play” can be performed on the Android device. Similarly, call-progress control can be managed using controls on the dashboard with the ability to, when the car is parked, commence a call on the Android device’s touchscreen.

Similarly, MirrorLink or similar techniques culd allow the accessory device to be configured or controlled in an advanced manner using the touchscreen on the Android device. It could come in handy with A/V equipment which may need specific configuration and setup procedures or Blu-Ray players that may expose “second-screen” interactivity functionality on the handset.

Conclusion

At least, Google have integrated commonly-accepted open standards to add functionality to Android in a manner as to rival the established Apple mobile-device platform and stimulate a healthy competitive design environment.

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Android now on par with Apple for tablets–what this could mean for printed-content delivery

Article

As tablet use grows, Android use on par with Apple, report says | Mobile – CNET News

My Comments

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet – a 10″ Android business tablet

Over the last year or so, there has been a lot of talk in the newspaper industry about heading to the digital-delivery path, with most newspaper publishers running the idea of offering their mastheads in a digital-delivery form. This has been lately augmented over the past few days of the Fairfax media group announcing their new direction and pushing the idea of a subscription-based digital-delivery arrangement for their two main mastheads, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

When I have heard this kind of talk, the tablet platform that is most often cited and supported for these applications is the Apple iPad. This is because it is seen as the most popular form of tablet computer for this application. But, from the CNET article, it is becoming so that the Android tablet platform is being placed on a par to Apple’s platform, mainly due to Amazon’s Kindle tablets.

I would also find that the Android tablet platform has yielded some capable products like the ASUS Transformer Prime; as well as the Samsung Galaxy Tab series and the business-oriented Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet that I just reviewed. These do appeal to users who “know what they are after”. Similarly, the Android platform has also yielded the 7” coat-pocket-size tablets like the Toshiba ATiSo that I reviewed recently.

Toshiba Thrive AT1S0 7" tablet

Toshiba Thrive At1So 7″ tablet

What I would like to see more for this platform is that the newspaper publishers work on integrated app-based newspaper readers for this platform rather than focusing the integrated experience to the iPad. Here, the 7” coat-pocket-size Android tablets could allow a user to have a few mastheads in their coat pocket to read on the train or the Transformer Prime could double as an electronic newspaper.

One platform that I am pleased with is the Zinio platform used for distributing magazines. Here, the effort was to deliver the magazine mastheads to a variety of devices ranging from the iPad through the Android tablets to the Windows and Mac desktop platforms, simply by working on a client program for each of the platforms.

Newspapers could look at developing a platform that allows the development of client apps for different device platforms and allow the user to subscribe to multiple mastheads without cluttering up their device with apps. It may either have to go for an app for each publisher or an app that is supported by multiple publishers and works as an online newsstand.

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Product Review–Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

Introduction

I am reviewing the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet which is Lenovo’s effort in providing a tablet computer pitched at business users. Some of the design factors that Lenovo used for this unit include a durable housing, a stylus as an alternative to touch control and the supply of security and manageability software.

Lenovo have also taken advantage of Android’s competitive app-store ability to provide an app store of their own so businesses can purchase and control the apps that a tablet can be equipped with.

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

Price
– reviewed configuration
AUD$639
Screen 10” size LED-backlit LCD
User Memory 16Gb
extra-cost 32Gb
SDHC card, USB memory key as storage device
Operating environment Operating system Android 3.1 Honeycomb
Performance Quadrant Benchmark 1542
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
Wireless Broadband 3G
Bluetooth 3.0
USB MicroUSB, Standard USB
Audio 3.5mm headset, digital output via mini-HDMI
Video Mini-HDMI

The unit itself

Aesthetics and build quality

The Lenovo ThinkPad tablet feels heavier to use than most other tablets, more like the first-generation Apple iPad tablet and is similarly thick. But it has a rubberised back which really permits non-slip use, especially if you are likely to be cradling it around your business to show Websites, around home to watch videos personally or around the express train to read ebooks or play Angry Birds.

Display

The touchscreen display is as expected for most of the 10” tablets including the Apple iPad 2, being easy to read in varying light and also very responsive. The only limitation that I would find with this is the glossy display which attracts the fingermarks too easily and is a common issue amongst products of this class.

Audio

Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet USB host port

USB host port for connecting memory keys and input devices

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet performed very well with the sound especially when you use it with headphones. The internal speakers don’t yield enough volume for any use except if you are close to the tablet.

Connectivity and Expandability

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet bottom edge connections

ThinkPad dock connection as well as micro-USB, mini-HDMI video output and headset jack

Lenovo has made a desktop dock and a keyboard folio that connects to a special connection port as optional accessories. But this Android-powered ThinkPad Tablet does allow you to connect to a larger variety of devices using industry-standard connectors.

Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet SD card and SIM card slot

Slot for SD card slot alongside 3G modem’s SIM card slot

Here, you have a standard USB host port so you can plug in USB memory keys; as well as a standard SD card slot for those camera cards when you want to preview your pictures. External power from its supplied charger, a car charger or an external battery pack is supplied using a micro-USB connector that is commonly used for Android smartphones.

If you needed to use external audio-video equipment, you have a headphone socket and a mini-HDMI socket for this purpose.

Performance

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet was very responsive in many ways. For example the graphics performance lived up to the Tegra norm and it was able to run multiple tasks concurrently without slowing to a crawl.

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet with stylus

The ThinkPad Tablet can be controlled with a supplied stylus

I even noticed how the battery performed after watching an episode of “Spiral” (“Engrenages” – a new French crime-drama series that I like watching) through SBS’s on-demand-video Website, then playing a few rounds of the supplied Solitaire game. Here, the battery was half-empty after this run of intense multimedia activity.

Other factors

As expected for business computing equipment, Lenovo have supplied the ThinkPad Tablet with security and manageability software for larger business setups where this tablet is part of a fleet of company-owned tablets. It also comes with remote-desktop software for Citrix-based remote computing environments which would be used in this class of computing environment.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

I would personally like to see Lenovo provide security, manageability and remote-computing software for the small business owner. This could be in the form of a remote-desktop client that works with the RDP (Windows) protocol as well as low cost remote-servicing tools for IT contractors and business-grade security that is positioned for this class of user.

As well, Lenovo could target the ThinkPad Tablet effectively at the small-business users through their marketing.

Technically, this tablet could be equipped with Bluetooth 4.0 technology so that it can work with sensor devices that use this low-power technology, which could appeal to medical professionals, technicians and similar user classes.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet as a durable “open-frame” tablet-based solution for small businesses, especially anyone who repairs or installs anything.  Here, they could keep PDFs of product / parts catalogues, service manuals, price lists and similar documentation “on hand” and ready to show to the customer; as well as an read-and-quick-reply terminal for email, a camera to take example photos to show the customer amongst other things/

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