As more business operations shift to the cloud, physical office needs are shrinking. Here's how technology can offer greater mobility for business on the go.
Smartphone maker ZTE recently launched a new projector with Sprint that is less than 5 inches square and 1.1 inches thick, complete with a 4-inch Android touchscreen system and speakers. One charge gives the unit up to 10 hours of battery life, and the device can act as a Wi-Fi hotspot and a power pack. Sprint also offers an LTE data plan for the projector.
Winning a "Best of CES 2014" from PCMag, the LivePro is a fair match for larger projectors, with the ability to project quality images of 1,080 pixels up to 10 feet long on the diagonal, ZTE said. But its 100-lumen lamp, while trumping the 80 to 90 range of most pocket projectors, is far weaker than the 3,000 lumens of bigger devices.
For comfortable typing, CTX Virtual Technologies has made a pocket-sized laser keyboard fob that projects a pink or green QWERTY layout onto any flat surface. The keyboard links to computers and smartphones via Bluetooth or a USB cable. The company said it is planning to embed the keyboard into smartphones and tablets to eliminate the key fob.
"This tiny gadget is a must-have for any telecommuter who wants to travel just with their tablet vs. a laptop," said Trae Bodge, senior lifestyle editor at Retailmenot.com. "The built-in display screen on the fob shows your key presses in real time and offers simulated keyboard sound feedback. It even runs for 180 minutes on a single charge!"
For a year or two now, Brother has offered portable PocketJet printers slimmer than a spaghetti box that connect wirelessly with Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Windows devices. A wall or car charge gives enough juice for about eight hours. The printer—weighing just over a pound—only works with specialized paper from Brother, but it doesn't need ink refills or mind extreme temperatures. It prints one page about every 20 seconds.
For someone taking a temporary jaunt into a less-wired area, these products could make life easier. Many home service businesses already use the PocketJet to print receipts as they visit customers. ZTE also touts their product as great for home theaters and for worst-case-scenario presentation mishaps.
Gathering all three products will cost more than $1,000: The projector retails for $449 without a contract; the keyboard, $119; and the iOS-compatible printer kit is $579, plus 6 to 8 cents a page.
These solutions are not for everyone.
"The reason why products like these exist is that there's a niche group that might want that," said Stephen Baker, industry analyst at NPD, who said he would never use the three items.
On his many business trips around the world, Baker said, he prefers to carry a tablet with a keyboard, with a protective bag and some kind of power source.
Although bringing your own projector would eliminate issues with color differences and compatibility while traveling, Baker said many conference rooms now have large flat-screen panels rather than projectors.
"The value of having your own projector when you travel is you know how it's set up," he said.
He also said many hotels have printing services, while he relies on a plastic tablet keyboard for mobile typing.
—By CNBC's Evelyn Cheng. CNBC's Erika Santoro contributed to this report.