Mobile and wireless technology is one of the faster growing areas within the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. The increase in productivity combined with lower prices and higher levels of innovation result in a definite return on investment.
There are certain factors one needs to take into consideration when purchasing a notebook, especially if this is being done for the first time, writes Gary Naidoo, deputy MD of Sahara.

It is important to understand and make sure of the reason behind the purchase. We all know about benefits like productivity, enhanced service levels and convenience, but the decision to buy a notebook has to be formulated according to key questions of  ‘why am I buying this product’ and ‘what will I use it for?’.

Essentially, the notebook is either purchased as a desktop replacement or a device that complements the users' existing infrastructure and the key requirement is then mobility.

Once you determine what the purpose of the notebook will be, you need to match this up with technical specifications. This is where one has to be diligent and cautious.

It is best to do some homework.  If the notebook is going to be used primarily for business communication and would be required for Internet banking, for example, then performance and connectivity are key factors.

The golden rule: always ask questions – such as:

* What processor or processing technology lies behind the inner-workings of the notebook?

* What capacity hard drive does it have?

* What about wireless connectivity – can it run 3G, for example?

* How will additional features or specifications influence the speed of the machine? What is the memory capacity?

* How many ports does it have?

* What operating system is loaded on the device?

* Will this present you with the necessary technical capacity to surf the Internet and use e-mail?

* What about security?

* Does it run of an internal or external modem?

However, if the notebook is being used essentially as a work-tool outside the office, for document generation and data transfer, then space, memory capacity and flexibility supercede other considerations.

In this case the user will want to run a few programs and applications simultaneously. There may be a necessity to accommodate other peripheral devices and utilise USB flash drives and CD/DVD drives, for example.

Again, the situation is quite different if the device is being used extensively for gaming. Then, the user would normally be more interested in the product’s audio-visual offering.:

* What sound and graphic cards, if any, does the solution feature?

* What is the resolution quality of graphics?

* What is the size of the screen?

* Will this provide me with a comprehensive digital experience?

* Does the machine have the capacity to run larger games, those at the higher end of the market?

These are just a few examples of questions that a gamer could or would ask.

Aside from what the notebook will be used for, price is also important to bear in mind. Part of the reason why the mobile solutions market is expanding so rapidly is because of higher levels of innovation. This is helping to drive prices down and make products more affordable.

It is now possible to acquire a notebook for the same price as a desktop.

Other aspects to think about include:

* Battery life (if you are traveling in remote areas for a lengthy period of time, you will need a notebook with a longer battery life. Purchasing a second battery may be worthwhile)

* Physical size and weight of the machine (smaller and lighter would be the best if portability is an issue).

Competition among vendors also strengthens the industry. This, together with an increase in research and development, has led to greater variety of product and more choice for the consumer.

Notebooks used to be perceived as an expensive ‘nice-to-have’ accessory for the traveling executive or business owner. This perception has changed radically and global technology vendors now tailor their offerings to meet different requirements of a diverse and sizeable consumer market.

The fact is that notebooks and other mobile devices, including digital cameras, PDAs and phones, have become more accessible and commercially viable. User groups include everyone from top level management of a large enterprises right through to a first year student.

It is likely that new, emerging markets will open up and become available as mobile & wireless moves beyond traditional barriers and connects more people, more often.