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
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
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
will throw its Wi-Fi doors open with free Web access in more than 17,000 stories.
Beyond that, cell heavies like
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
EVO and the
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
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.
Fancy task organizers like
get most of the efficiency points now; but my fave small-biz app is
. This lovely piece of code, from EuroSmartz, lets you beam picture-perfect riffs of your files to a printer, which is so cool you can't even imagine.
Just keep in mind that whatever you want to do, others probably want to do it, too. So chances are there's an app waiting to make it all possible. Simply go to the iTunes App Store and start browsing.
Get a good view of your data
: Just because the Touch has a small screen doesn't mean your stuff has to be small. Third-party apps like
use the iPod dual-finger touch control features, zoom technology and elegant design to make the hardest-to-read files, data and calendars manageable on the small iPod screen.
Now, for sure, these tools do not turn a Touch into a legit laptop: Entering hordes of data or managing massive files is still a no-go. But these apps allow your iPod to remotely answer email, tinker with presentations and otherwise mark up sales leads as you move around. Done properly, the iPod Touch becomes a affordable, pocket-sized portal that keeps you in touch with your business.
And for small-business owners, the iPod Touch is a fab feeling indeed.
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Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on FoxNews and The WB.