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Top 5 last-minute exec gadget gifts

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No, the iPad is not one of our top 5 gadget recommendations for last-minute gifts for the busy executive. But a couple of Apple products do make the list, as does Microsoft, BlackBerry, Cell C, and Nintendo. But our top 5 high-end gifts with a business edge will also have broader appeal, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK
You can’t move or browse right now without hearing or reading recommendations for the best gifts for Christmas 2010. But most of the recommendations are focused on the general consumer, and generally the iPad comes out number one. At Gadget we see it more as a toy than a tool, and decided to compile a list of the tech gifts that will make the most difference to the busy business person.

1.       MacBook Air
A thing of beauty is a joy forever, wrote the poet John Keats. He may not have had the MacBook Air in mind, but rarely has a mere computer been such a thing of beauty. And “mere” applies in its technical sense: if this is not the lightest fully-fledged laptop ever produced, it is certainly the thinnest. Hold it sideways, and it almost disappears. The functionality is closer than ever to a fully-fledged MacBook, but the experience of using it will more than make up. Go for the 13” rather than the 11”, since the latter is more of a travelling companion; the 13” is a respectable replacement for any working laptop. Not cheap, from about R10 000 upward, but it’s the gift that will keep delivering. A thing of beauty is a joy to behold, and to hold, if it’s a MacBook Air.

2.       Microsoft Office Professional 2010
Despite all the efforts of the rest of the software industry – both in developing alternatives and in bad-mouthing them – Microsoft still rules the desktop, both in operating systems and productivity software. This is despite the fact that even Microsoft made every effort to destroy itself with the man-made disaster that was called Windows Vista. It redeemed itself with the Windows 7 operating system, and now further heals the wounds with Office 2010. The premium product in the range, Office Professional 2010, is hugely expensive (around R6000) but delivers hugely on cutting edge new versions of Word, Exel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access.

3.       Choose sides in the BlackBerry/iPhone divide
Yes, it’s a cop-out, but there isn’t any one single phone that would be the perfect phone for everyone. The touch-screen aficionado who is not big on e-mail and messaging will adore you forever if they get an iPhone 4 in their gift-wrapping. But the low-grade virtual keyboard and the high cost of using data means it does not meet everyone’s needs or wallets. There is no phone to match it for apps handling, though. At R7000 upward, you need to be sure there is a meeting of minds and needs.

On the other side of the divide sits the entire BlackBerry range, with the 9700 Bold probably the best e-mail-handling tool on the market, but with the older version, the 9000 Bold, offering bigger keys and therefore quicker messaging, and the Curve 8520 matching it all the way, with the exception of the 3G and GPS boasted by the Bolds. The phone that crosses the divide, though, is the BlackBerry Torch, with a slide-out keyboard and a sizeable touchscreen. The keyboard is a little pokey, but once you get used to it, it is the ultimate phone for all purposes. Prices range from R4500 upward, and availability is far better than the iPhone, so this could well be an iPhone killer for the South African market.

4.       Cell C HSPA+ modem with data bundle
This is the modem that changed the market. Offering theoretical speeds of up to 21Mbps, as do the other operators on their HSPA+ networks, this one changes the bar in both unmatchable performance (for now) and unmatchable pricing. A 2GB per month bundle comes in at R149 a month, and 5GB at R249 a month, both including the modem. This is closer to ADSL pricing than wireless broadband as we’ve know it until now. If you don’t need a Telkom line, then it is indeed the most cost-effective broadband offering on the South African market, and the rivals are going to have to modify their offerings to compete.

5.       Nintendo Wii Party
Nintendo Wii is no longer the coolest gaming platform in town (a position it held for all of a fortnight or so after the Balance Board was released), but it still whips the Xbox and PlayStation when it comes to all-ages activity. The Xbox is muscling in on its space with the Kinect and its physical activity-based games, but Nintendo have built up a solid and broad base of offerings here. The one that will make office parties come alive – for all ages, rather than just the young gamers – is Wii Party. Itcontains no less than 80 mini-games.

Moreover, it comes with a Wii Remote that includes a rubberised Jacket to protect it – and fellow players – from harm, if it is one of those festive parties that somehow take place at this time of year. From R570 upward, it won’t break the bank, but you have to the Wii console hanging around already.

These aren’t the only high-end high-tech items available, and for some, none of them may meet their needs.  But any gadget-lover will be hard pressed to refuse this entire list.

On that note, enjoy the festive season, with or without gadgetry, travel safely or enjoy your home environment to the full, and we wish you recharged batteries for the new year.

– Follow Arthur Goldstuck on Twitter on @art2gee

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