One of the trends, more obvious during the earlier part of my week in San Francisco (Feb 21st through 1st March) is the debate about nomadic vs. network computing. The key difference is the network connection. Nomads disconnect from the network, like I’ve had to do from time to time. One of the reasons that I have to disconnect more than some is that I don’t have a wireless card. I’ll have to fix that. I’ve been impressed by the way that colleagues have had net access while I’ve had to wait until I can get broadband access. However in some areas of the world, broadband is not ubiquitous and according to some US colleagues overestimated in the USA. Broadband is unusual in hotels in the UK, (certainly the ones I use) and no connection is provided on trains & planes. (They’re coming but currently seen as premium items; business people are expected to expense it).
For these and other reasons some people hold out for nomadic computing, using laptops with disk. One particular reason is the Mac lover syndrome, having escaped the crapness of the PC, they can’t believe that the network’s caught them and they’re going to have to abandon their beloved fashion accessory 😛 .
The most developed nomadic software solution is e-mail with IMAP caching but Greg Papadopolouos addressed this in his speech to SEC. He argued that e-mail is becoming an online experience because of hyperlinks and attachments. (However, you can delete your spam while disconnected and Bill Vass (see here) argues for and uses his ‘phone/PDA to do his mail when Sunrays are unavailable.) The growing frequency of wi-fi hot spots, our conference room (at SEC) is one , means that it is the power requirements that are beginning to constrain our network connectivity while on move, as opposed to a cable length. Laptop Sunray’s won’t have disks, so their batteries should last longer. But the answer may still be the mobile phone, I can check my wap enabled e-mail accounts using the phone (although the screen is still shit, so I can delete my spam, and read the subject lines, but it’ll be a while before I’m reading Jonathan’s Blog using a ‘phone).
Originally posted on my sun/oracle blog, and republished here in Feb 2016