Technology

2012’s Top Technology

CCIM members go to the polls to vote for their favorite tech tools.

Robert Rein, CCIM, associate vice president at NAI REOC Austin in Austin, Texas, started with the iPad. After his BlackBerry died a little over a year ago, he completed his Apple conversion with the iPhone.

“Everyone is looking for a competitive advantage,” Rein says. “And having some of these newer gadgets really gives you the upper hand.”

In September, Commercial Investment Real Estate asked CCIM members to rate their favorite technology, including tablets, smartphones, apps, and social media. Like Rein, most respondents are gaining a competitive advantage with an Apple arsenal consisting of an iPad and iPhone.

Although the latest smartphones and tablets may get the most attention, respondents also cited more-utilitarian products that are critical to their businesses.

Mobile Phone Winner: iPhone

More than half of U.S. smartphones are Android phones, but 70 percent of CCIM members surveyed chose the iPhone as their favorite. Respondents noted that it complements their essential hardware and software, including email clients. “My iPhone seamlessly integrates with Outlook, which I use extensively to keep organized,” says Carolyn M. Graden, CCIM, broker at The Rants Group in Olympia, Wash.

In September, Apple announced the iPhone 5. Compared with the iPhone 4S, the new phone has a bigger screen, weighs less, and has LTE capabilities. The iPhone 4S, which was released in 2011, introduced Siri, a voice recognition system.

The Samsung Galaxy S III, which launched in May, placed a distant second to the iPhone in the survey results, but it was the most popular Android phone among CCIM members. The iPhone competitor includes a 4.8-inch screen and unique features such as instant muting, which silences audio notifications when the phone is placed face down on a surface.

What to expect in 2013: Bigger screens, slimmer casing, and faster processing are staple features in new smartphones and will continue to be in 2013. But a recent lawsuit found Samsung guilty of infringing on Apple’s patent, which could affect smartphone design next year. Intellectual property experts say smartphone manufacturers will change their devices — for better or worse — to avoid litigation.

Tablet Winner: iPad

“When I’m touring buildings with clients, they may decide they’re not interested in that building but ask about a building across the street,” says Rein, who specializes in office investment sales in Austin. With a few hand gestures on his iPad, he is able to share the property’s vitals on the spot.

“It makes you look like an expert because you instantly have all that information,” Rein says.

Like the smartphone category, tablet voting finished with a Samsung product — the Galaxy tablet — in a distant second to an Apple product. The Android-powered Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 has a bigger screen and is lighter than the iPad. Starting at $399, it is also less expensive than the iPad, which starts at $499. Google’s Nexus 7 tablet tied for second and starts at $199.

Despite targeting business users, BlackBerry’s PlayBook tablet barely registered with CCIM members. Amazon released a faster version of the Kindle Fire this fall, but less than 1 percent of respondents selected the entertainment-focused tablet as their favorite.

What to expect in 2013: Surface, Microsoft’s first tablet, was released in October, just in time for holidays. With Excel, Word, and PowerPoint included, the Surface could upend the tablet market next year and pose the biggest challenge yet to the iPad’s dominance, especially among business users looking for a seamless experience with Microsoft Office products. With a magnetic keyboard cover, USB port, and integrated kickstand, the Surface has the potential to serve as a true laptop substitute. Apple may steal some of Microsoft’s thunder with the release of a mini iPad, which debuted in October at $329.

Presentation Software Winner: PowerPoint

CCIM members crowned Apple king of hardware in CIRE’s tech survey, but when asked to name their favorite presentation software, an essential tool for pitching properties, more than 75 percent of respondents chose Microsoft PowerPoint. PowerPoint beat out Apple’s iPad-friendly Keynote and two cloud-based programs — Prezi and SlideRocket.

The enthusiasm respondents showed for Apple products was replaced with resignation when discussing PowerPoint. “I’ve used PowerPoint for more than 10 years, so why change?” says Ken J. Reinschmidt, CCIM, broker at Saratoga Commercial Real Estate in Bellingham, Wash. Voters said that PowerPoint would be more useful if Microsoft followed Apple’s lead and had a mobile app for its presentation software.

Respondents also mentioned SlideShark, a program that allows users to view and show PowerPoint presentations on iPads and iPhones.

What to expect in 2013: Microsoft Office 2013, which is currently available as a free preview, will include a redesigned version of PowerPoint. The new version includes a zoom feature, a navigation grid for reordering slides on the fly, and new themes.

Google Docs’ creatively named presentation software, Presentations, hasn’t seen a major update since 4Q11. The cloud-based program could receive a feature boost in 2013 to match the essential features users have come to expect from Keynote and PowerPoint.

Social Media Site Winner: LinkedIn

LinkedIn easily won in the social media category, but CCIM members said they find it beneficial to use more than one platform. “For business LinkedIn is better than Facebook, but I use them both,” says Daniel G. Zelonker, CCIM, broker associate at Mizrach Realty Associates in Miami.

In 2012, LinkedIn started to look more like Facebook after redesigning its home page and company pages. The new home page resembles the news feed layout seen on Facebook and on Google’s social media platform, Google+, and company pages now include a cover photo reminiscent of the landscape image at the top of Facebook profiles.

Twitter ranked third behind LinkedIn and Facebook. Survey respondents said Duke Long (@dukelong), owner of The Duke Long Agency, is the most influential commercial real estate person on Twitter.

What to expect in 2013: Despite low initial usage, Google remains committed to Google+. In a trend that will continue in 2013, the platform became more integrated into other Google products, notably search results, this year. Businesses that use social media may be reluctant to add another platform into their mix. But setting up a Google+ business page and regularly updating it, even with posts that appear on Facebook, could boost search engine optimization.

A new social media privacy controversy will almost certainly make headlines in 2013. Users can stay ahead of the headlines by regularly checking their social media privacy settings — as well as settings for apps that integrate with social media sites — to ensure they’re only sharing what they want to share.

Commercial Real Estate Tech Blog Winner: The CRE App Review

Commercial real estate professionals have a reputation of being slow to adopt new technology. A few tech blogs focused on the commercial real estate industry are aiming to change that reputation.

The CRE App Review was selected as members’ favorite. “I love it,” says Jennifer L. Gray, CCIM, senior vice president of Bradford Commercial Real Estate Services in Southlake, Texas. “Technology is moving so fast. It’s great to have a resource like The CRE App Review.”

The blog focuses primarily on apps but also covers mapping, contact management, and marketing. Respondents also mentioned CREvation and Startups (patrick braswell.info) and CREoutsider as useful blogs for tech-related commercial real estate information.

Productivity App Winner: Dropbox

With hundreds of thousands of apps to choose from, picking one as a favorite can be daunting. So members didn’t pick just one. The majority selected Dropbox, the cloud-based file-storage app, as their favorite and then also wrote in a second app.

The free version of Dropbox includes 2 GB of storage and gives users access to files synced on their desktop computers, laptops, and other devices. “It makes bringing paper with you obsolete,” says Harold S. Alpert, CCIM, broker associate at Alpert Commercial Real Estate in Vacaville, Calif.

Dropbox is useful for viewing files, but it doesn’t allow for editing or creating files. Evernote, which ranked second in the survey, fills that gap by giving users a simplified word processing app to capture ideas or reminders while in the field. GoodReader, another popular productivity app among members, costs $4.99 and provides more annotation features across more document types than Evernote.

Property Listing App Winner: LoopNet

“Both are really good,” says Bruce R. Isaac, CCIM, senior vice president of NAI Isaac Commercial Properties in Lexington, Ky., referring to LoopNet and CoStarGo.

CCIM members chose LoopNet as their favorite listing app but saw it as a complementary tool to second-place CoStarGo. Both apps are free to download and have additional features for paid subscribers. LoopNet is available on the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, and CoStarGo is only available on the iPad.

“One may have information that the other one doesn’t,” Isaac says. He uses LoopNet for leasing information and turns to CoStarGo for analytics. “The longer the apps are out there the more complete and accurate the information will become,” he adds.

The listing search on both apps is nearly identical. Using the mobile device’s GPS feature, CoStarGo and LoopNet allow users to run proximity searches, or users can enter address information to find listings near a specific location. Results are filtered by property attributes such as by price, size, and property type.

Appreciation for the Basics

While advances in mobile technology attract the most attention, CCIM members are pragmatic about their use of technology. When asked about the most valuable tech tool for their businesses, several respondents said it was a browser, laptop, or search engine.

“Without question my browser is my favorite piece of technology,” says Bruce Meringolo of Newmark Associates in Cedar Knolls, N.J. “It provides access to information that has made the job significantly easier and faster to perform. I can’t imagine working in this profession without it!”

Dennis LaMantia is interactive marketing manager of the CCIM Institute. Scott Lavick, senior business analyst of the CCIM Institute, provided data analysis.

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