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We seem to be getting closer and closer to a ban of laptops in airplane passenger compartments — and the idea of putting what could be a bomb in the luggage compartment seems equally bad to me. This suggests that unless there is some kind of a breakthrough in airport scanning technology coupled with an amazingly rapid deployment of that technology, our laptops may be staying home.
Renting a laptop or having a spare supplied at the destination may be a workable solution, though with what would be a huge spike in demand, there could be some rather significant spot shortages for areas with lots of travelers.
Being unable to work on long plane trips could become a huge problem not only for employees but for PC OEMs as well. Having a contingency plan might be a good idea, and I have some suggestions.
Rethink Video Conferencing
The easiest fix is to start reconsidering whether folks need to get on planes in the first place. Video conferencing has improved a great deal. With new products specifically focused on collaboration and teams, like the Meeting Owl, Logitech MeetUp and Microsoft Surface Hub, coming to market, the tools to engage remote employees have never been more powerful. Often for the cost of just one international ticket, you can deploy one of these products and not only save a ton on travel and lost productivity but keep the employees significantly safer, happier and less stressed out.
A laptop ban could actually be a good thing if it forces organizations to eliminate all but the most critical travel — particularly internationally where the combination of time zone differences, changing political climates, loss of sleep and exposure to illnesses creates a huge productivity drag and puts employees at unnecessary risk.
For now, no one is talking about banning large phones. With a wireless keyboard, a phablet can be turned into a workable alternative to a laptop PC when you really don’t have any other choice. Yes, you have issues with screen size, but it is certainly better than nothing.
Granted this solution would be a huge problem for the PC OEMs because it would encourage users to buy large phones instead of laptops. Both Lenovo, because of their Motorola division, and Apple, thanks to the iPhone, could weather this reasonably well. But the PC OEMs without a strong smartphone strategy would likely be in trouble. Given their market share with large smartphones, Samsung could be the biggest beneficiary of this move, particularly if they can come up with some kind of smartphone-to-laptop accessory.
Private Charters and Jet Services
Another way around the laptop ban involves private charters. These generally do not have the same restrictions as normal commercial flights. Services that aggregate fliers who fly non-commercial carriers could, as a result, be in a great position to offer alternatives to commercial flights. While this option is more expensive, the workers could again carry their laptops. In addition, they might actually prefer these services, which could grow to challenge the major airline companies as more people shift to them so they can work during flights.
We are getting closer and closer to an FAA ban on passenger compartment laptops on all flights, and it seems likely we’ll be unable to even put them in baggage before long.
Having a workaround in case this happens now should become a higher priority. Looking at ideas like shifting to video conferencing, using phablets and considering private charters to address these new restrictions could provide the basis for contingency plans allowing the IT department to look well prepared if and when this ban actually happens. Particularly in the case of video conferencing, the forced changes could actually benefit productivity and employee satisfaction if the related programs are properly implemented.
Sometimes you can turn lemons into lemonade.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.