Holiday shopping, executive style

What does the CEO, president or executive director in your life want for Christmas? What high-tech gadget will make his or her busy life easier or more fun? These ideas, garnered from local heads of firms, should get you started.



The BlackBerry seems to be the No. 1 choice among local execs.

“I recently converted to the BlackBerry,” said Greg Warta, CEO of Washougal-based Airspeed Internet. “It lets me pretend to be in the office when I’m not!”

Warta is not the only one with a new BlackBerry on his desk. Tom Walsh, Vancouver office manager for Otak Inc., tried a BlackBerry once, but gave it up and went back to his cell phone, saying the original version was too hard to use, with poor call quality. But, when his cell phone died a couple weeks ago, he decided to give the BlackBerry another go.

“It’s a different product now,” said Walsh.

Kathy Kniep, executive director of the YWCA in Vancouver, has had her BlackBerry for about six months. Prior to that time, she said, she kept her schedule by hand. Now, she uses Microsoft Outlook’s calendar feature in combination with her BlackBerry.

“I’m completely addicted,” admitted Kniep. She finds the online, always-available scheduling “very convenient for me and the people I work with.” The only downside, she said, is “lots of other people can schedule things for me.”


Another popular device is the iPhone. Roger Michaelis, CEO of iQ Credit Union, has had his for three months, and is very excited about it.

“I used its map feature in L.A.,” said Michaelis, “and it got me around just fine.”

He said being able to use MapQuest instead of having to pack bulky, hard-to-fold maps was a life-saver. He also uses his iPhone to check the weather before he packs for a trip. Michaelis, who said he tries to stay up with current technology, sees the iPhone as a major efficiency booster in the office, as well, as it supports “more mobile banking applications.”

How would he describe the iPhone’s various features in two words or less?  

“It’s cool,” said Michaelis.


Another product that appeals to executives is the mini-laptop.

“They look quite interesting,” said Clint Page, CEO of Internet-identity firm Dotster Inc.

There are several minis on the market, such as the Vulcan Portals Inc.’s FlipStart, the OQO Model 2, Toshiba’s Libretto U100, the VAIO by Sony and Fujitsu’s Lifebook U. These minis measure only about 6 inches by 4 inches by 1.5 inches, and weigh one-and-a-half to two pounds, but offer an amazing amount of memory, computing power and battery life for their size.

Other ideas    

Ergonomic office furniture – price and manufacturers vary

Biometric Password Manager

CD/DVD shredder


Going wireless

How do you easily upgrade the antiquated wiring and phone lines in a house built in the 1920s? Well, you don’t. Walsh took the advice of his electrician and went wireless. With a small wireless router, he brought his century-old dwelling into the 21st century.

“I’m kind of proud,” said Walsh, who admits he doesn’t consider himself very technical. Just this past weekend, he secured his WiFi connection, announcing to his somewhat skeptical wife that he was now “officially the house IT guy.”

Nintendo Wii

Most people associate video games with motionless, eyes-straight-ahead zombies. But Warta says Nintendo’s Wii video console is just the opposite.

According to Warta, instead of a regular joy stick, the Wii is “very interactive,” with game players actually going through the motions of the game they are playing – golf or boxing, for example. The controller uses Bluetooth, infrared and other technology to sense its position in space.

“They’re usually sweating,” said Warta, by the time his young children have finished a game.

Induction cooktop stove

High tech isn’t limited to just the office. Lisa Lowe, managing partner of the Vancouver office for the law firm Schwabe, Williamson and Wyatt, said she likes her laptop, hates her Blackberry (it does its job too well), but what really “floats her boat” right now is her new induction cooktop stove.

“It’s amazing – it literally takes only seconds to boil water,” enthused Lowe.

Induction cooktops aren’t really new – they are common in Europe. But they are just catching on in the U.S. In addition to faster heat transfer, they offer very precise temperature control – which is important to Lowe, who likes to make candy in her spare time.

One drawback, said Lowe, is that few of her existing pots and pans will work with the new induction stove, as it requires pots made of magnetic materials, such as stainless steel and cast-iron (no copper, aluminum, or glass). But, she laughed, she is sort of looking forward to shopping for new pans.

Other ideas

High-tech shoes such as those made by Nike, Adidas, or Gravity Defyer

Programmable Pet Dish

Universal Remote Control


USB Desk Vacuum Cleaner

One local CEO who recognizes the value of fun is Scott Huotari, president of Creative Computer Solutions Inc. Huotari recently bought a USB Desk Vacuum Cleaner.

Huotari said he hadn’t actually tried the vacuum cleaner out yet – but it is reputedly capable of vacuuming crumbs and fluff off your desk. Just the thing for executives who like to eat crackers and type at the same time.

Other ideas

USB Missile Launcher

Lends a whole new meaning to “shoot me an e-mail.”

Vinyl Record/Cassette Converter

Convert your old Pink Floyd records or Carpenter cassette tapes to CD.

150-CD carousel /searchable database of tunes