I sit here in my little office, looking out over a garden raggled and taggled by a blustery day and think: thank whatever supernatural power you want to name for the fact that I am not trying to fly anywhere today.
Because of actual/possible/supposed terrorist activity (delete as the story unfolds) trying to fly anywhere out of the UK today is a hopeless prospect, and I feel for the poor souls trapped at airports around the world wondering what they are going to do now. And because I have done my fair share of flights lugging a laptop around with me, grateful for the capabilities it offers `on the road’ but cursing the weight and inconvenience, I have some feelings for any business traveller now caught in the dilemma of risking the valuable piece of kit in a suitcase jammed in the hold, or leaving it behind in a pile of banned detritous not allowed on board – at least until minds are changed about allowing hand luggage back on board.
But then I suddenly thought – perhaps there is some good that can come out of this in the long term. I cannot be alone in cursing all those people, busy `execs’ usually, who insist on dragging half a wardrobe on board with them as `hand-luggage’– usually plus a laptop in a bag. They think it saves time, but the delays they cause getting on and off usually use up any advantages. Perhaps, however, there is scope for making all aircraft hand-luggage-free.
Ahh, but I hear voices stage left muttering: `what about the essential laptops?’ Good question, and there is an answer. OK, it is an answer that is not quite deliverable just yet but: could the rise of the terrorist threat be a market kicker for the development and growth of Utility Computing?
Think about it: UC has the potential to create an environment where everyone’s IT `existence’ is held on the utility, not on individual PCs. All the user will do is log on and, verily, their work (or whatever) environment will pop up in front of them. Indeed, they could have several identities – for work, home, other nefarious pleasures – each of which would be equally accessible.
And accessible from what? Well, certainly not a laptop – too passé, too heavy, too bulky and too damned slow to be anything but an historical curio. For every day use I suspect there could easily be some form of lightweight, totally anodyne and technologically agnostic thin client system. But if people are in situations where even small, thin clients are banned – and we must expect that hand luggage will become a long-term no-no in aircraft, after today – then even they would be banished to the detritous pile. The only answer would be a rented client device at the point of arrival. And if everything about you and your work, life or whatever is on the utility system, not on the client, and only ever passes through the client without stopping in order to get to you, would you actually need to have a client of your very own?
I understand the psychological sense of security in having `your own’, but it would be a total irrelevance. It would also make air travel so much better and more convenient. And if you insisted on working on the flight then, “why sir, there is this thin client that pops out of the arm-rest.”
If the terrorists are achieving anything it is to point out that those of us who lug laptops around the world thinking we’re being very clever and productive are probably being the exact opposite. After all, how often have you been heard to yell, when in some far-flung hotel on the dark side of the moon, “why the *!!!*$$ won’t this laptop connect?!”
In practice, all we need is access to our work or environment. At the moment, perhaps, it means we need to carry that around with us, but we are within a whisker of never having to need to again.