If there is an unloved, ignored work horse in the Apple stable, it's the once-proud iPod Touch (8GB, $199). The former flagship of Apple's mobile ambitions, the slim, elegant Touch is now relegated to kid's duty -- mostly hosting mega-game titles like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. The rap is that, with no cellular connection, a small screen and limited processing power, the Touch simply ain't up for small-biz prime time.
But, man, what a sad, bum rap that is! With a bit of techno-TLC, for a fraction of the cost, the iPod Touch can be everything those uber-popular Apple devices are. And more.
Here's what you need to know:Add some ad hoc Wi-Fi: Living "la vida weba" with the iPod Touch is all about rustling up Wi-Fi hotspots roaming the digital frontier. Called "ad hoc networking" in polite company, this sort of Wi-Fi access, while nowhere near as prevalent as cell network data service, is fast, cheap and more common than ever. Forget retail also-rans like Panera Bread (PNRA - Get Report) that have offered free Wi-Fi for years; many supermarkets now have Wi-Fi, as do libraries. And starting in July, street-level caffeine dealer Starbucks (SBUX - Get Report) will throw its Wi-Fi doors open with free Web access in more than 17,000 stories. Beyond that, cell heavies like AT&T (T - Get Report) and T-Mobile quietly sell excellent, super-cheap, $10-per-month access to 45K-plus hotspots worldwide, assuming you already have a plan. And a surprising number of new smart phones and devices, like the Sprint (S) EVO and the Verizon (VZ - Get Report) MiFi 2200, emit a secure, local Wi-Fi hotspot that a Touch can well, touch. For sure, stay away from so-called naked Wi-Fi, the absurd, $40-a-month a provider will bilk you for Wi-Fi access without a phone plan. But with a little cell op haggling -- and help from Wi-Fi finder apps like JiWire's local hotspot finder -- you'll be surprised at the ad hoc Wi-Fi fat in the land. There's an app for that small-biz "that": Unlike elsewhere on the Web -- which is rapidly withering into a bleak, savage, innovation-free high plain -- the controlled Apple app economy has spawned an ecosystem of add-on iPod work functionalities.