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Always Room for Improvement

October 22, 2005

Filed under: additive manufacturing,event — Terry Wohlers @ 18:18

In recent weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to attend the Stratasys and Z Corp. user conferences in Florida and New Hampshire, respectively. Both were excellent. One of the most interesting sessions at the two events was the formation of the “wish list” by the customers in attendance. In case you are not familiar with wish lists, they are a chance for users to voice what they would like to see added or changed in their products.

The customers at both user conferences created lengthy lists of problems that they hope will be solved. One might wonder why these lists are so long after 10-15  years of development. (Stratasys introduced its first machine in 1991, while Z Corp. introduced its first in 1996.) While this may seem puzzling on the surface, there’s a good reason. As new generation products are introduced, and as customers expand the range of applications, new problems (and opportunities) develop. The best system manufacturers seek customer input and refine their products to make them as good as they can possibly be. 

I could not help but think that at least a few of the employees of these two companies were a little uncomfortable having an industry consultant and analyst witness live and unpredictable customer input. What I found was that they were completely open to new ideas and advice and were not afraid to have others hear it like it is. It sent a strong message to me that both companies are serious about customer satisfaction and the future of this industry, even if it means exposing some dirty laundry.

Best All-in-One Handheld

October 11, 2005

Filed under: review — Terry Wohlers @ 07:14

Periodically, I stumble across a product that really stands out. One month ago, I purchased a Palm Treo 650. It’s a phone and PDA/organizer in one device. I especially like it’s size, compared to some smart phones that are on the market. This was my first, so I really did not know what to expect. 

The verdict from this one-person jury is in: I like it—a lot. Already, I’ve benefited countless times from its email and web capabilities. I travel frequently, so checking email on my way to/from the airport, waiting for flights to depart, and in taxi cabs is invaluable. In fact, on a recent three-day trip, I did not use my laptop for email until the day I departed. I could have gotten by without it entirely, but I needed to process some email that required some rather lengthy replies. Short replies are reasonably fast using the Treo’s very small but usable built-in keys.

The device offers many capabilities. Last Saturday, while at the Colorado State football game, I checked the scores of other games at an ESPN website. (If you have a cellular signal, you can visit websites and check email.) I’ve also used the Treo to review and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files and it works well to view PDF files. I’ve used it to download and listen to MP3s, although I need to buy a good stereo headset. I’ve purchased a Bluetooth headset for wireless phone conversations and for reviewing voice mail and it works well. The Treo is also capable of voice recognition, but I have not yet set it up. Last week, I shot some digital images with it that I would have not otherwise captured. The Treo is also capable of shooting video (motion picture) with sound. Pretty amazing little device.

This is my fourth Palm handheld, so it’s nice having all of the familiar Palm functionality integrated into a phone and Internet handheld. It syncs beautifully to my desktop and laptop computers, so my calendar, task list, etc., match. The device is easy to use, the battery life is good, and it’s easy to carry using my Seidio holster, which I recommend highly. If you’re considering an all-in-one handheld, the Treo 650 is the device to buy.