Home office 2000

A guide to the latest home-business hardware and software

Running a business from home is easy to do if you have the right tools-a desktop computer, printer, fax machine, cell phone and Internet access. If you have recently joined the fastest-growing segment of the American workforce-40 million people now work at home-then you are probably on the hunt for products that are efficient and economical. Here are our top “tech 2000″ picks for the home-based entrepreneur.

Gateway’s Astro (www.gateway .com) is easy on the checkbook and the desktop. At $799, the all-in-one 400MHz personal computer’s processing unit, 15-inch display screen and speakers share one console. The only attachments are a mouse and a keyboard. Other features include 64MB SDRAM, 4.3GB hard drive, 56K fax modem and four USB ports. An obvious downside: if one component goes down, the entire unit suffers.

Handspring’s Visor palm-style organizer (www.handspring.com) was created by the group that invented the Palm Pilot series of personal organizers. The Visor uses the same CPU, display, PIM software and OS as Palm’s own products and adds a USB docking cradle for faster hotsync (for downloading) to new desktop computers. Handspring’s handheld computer also has a Gameboy-like expansion slot that can be filled with more memory, a modem and a line of plug-ins (e.g., mP3 players, pagers, digital cameras and GPS modules). Offering more memory for less than the price of its Palm cousins, the Visor (4MB) retails for $149 and the Visor Deluxe (8MB), which comes in five colors, for $299.

Hewlett Packard’s OfficeJet R80 fax/printer/scanner (www.hp.com/go/ all-in-one) combines a color printer, flatbed scanner, photocopier and fax machine. It sells for $800. It comes with a 100-page memory and a software bundle that includes Adobe PhotoDeluxe Business Edition and KMT Office in Color templates. Output is up to par, with an optical scanning resolution of 600 by 2,400 dpi and a printing resolution of 600 by 600 dpi.

SierraHome’s Complete Web Studio (www .sierra.com) is a comprehensive e-commerce-building tool that retails for $79.95. There are more than 100 templates in this package, which also features wizards to guide you through the posting of text, photos and animation. Sierra has partnered with AT&T Worldnet, among others, to host your Website at a discounted price.

E-stamp.com (http://estamp.com), the Internet postage service, spent four years working out the kinks and is now ready to handle your business. You can print digital stamps-for first class, priority, express mail and parcel post-from your computer directly on to your envelope or package. E-stamp’s starter kit consists of software and a small security device-about the size of a roll of stamps-that sits on the back of your computer and stores the digital postage. It will cost about $49 to buy and download the starter kit.

Microsoft’s Office 2000 Small Business (www.microsoft.com) is the latest version of this comprehensive software suite and includes the usual programs: Word, Excel, Outlook, Publisher and Small Biz Tools. What’s new are the integrated Internet tools for creating Web pages. Users can save any Office document as a Web page and view and edit it from

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