Technology

Desk Be Not Proud

One big change coming to the desktop: workers are less likely to be at one. Plus: phone kiosks as magnets?
Scott LeibsMarch 17, 2003

It’s telling that corporate employees, lauded as “stakeholders,” “clients,” “team members,” or what have you in certain contexts, are simply — one might say disparagingly — labeled “users” by IT folks. But, to paraphrase George Bailey, these rabble that pester the help desks do most of the working and adding and producing and thinking around here: Is it too much to ask that they get a decent upgrade once in a while?

Meta Group analyst Jack Gold doesn’t think so. He cautions companies against the current make-do approach, arguing that recent and forthcoming advances in operating systems, tablets and notebooks, and other technologies will soon boost the productivity of users — er, employees.

Consider this, as well: British Telecom’s “BT Reel Office” project, an effort to study how employees use technology, has found that workers often feel overwhelmed by it. Indeed, the volumes of information generated exceed what workers can cope with, and the pervasiveness intrudes on work/life balance.

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Employers may need to do a little coping as well. The fact is, technology will undoubtedly change the way workers do their jobs. Experts say, for instance, that employers are less likely to be at a desktop in future years.

Gold says companies should prepare for a larger reliance on mobile workers by revamping help desks to provide 24/7 support, modifying software-license agreements to address mobile deployment, and updating security policies and internal systems to accommodate remote workers.

Who/What/Wi-Fi?

The exhortations of Carrot Top notwithstanding, pay phones would seem to be inching closer to extinction one cell phone at a time.

But a company called inCode Telecom sees a new role for them, as Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) “hot spots.” In a pilot program with Bell Canada, inCode is transforming pay phones into hot spots, which are transmission points that link wireless devices to cellular networks.

Equipped with Wi-Fi technology, a laptop, PDA, or other wireless device can transmit data at speeds substantially faster than typical wireless connections can. The main limitation: the mobile device must be within about 300 feet of a hot spot.

By transforming their vast pay-phone networks into hot spots, traditional telecom carriers hope to be able to compete with a long list of other companies that see wireless technologies as having vast consumer and corporate appeal.

Last December, for example, AT&T, IBM, and Intel teamed up to form Cometa Networks, which plans to create and sell hot-spot network services to ISPs and others that will in turn sell them to businesses and consumers. Earlier last year, Starbucks teamed with Hewlett-Packard and MobiStar to incorporate hot-spot capabilities into thousands of Starbucks stores (T Mobile has subsequently acquired MobiStar’s interest in the venture).

Intel’s latest mobile processing platform, dubbed “Centrino,” has Wi-Fi capabilities built in. The company predicts that during the next three years, 30 million Wi-Fi-enabled laptops will be sold, many of them to the road warriors who are increasingly extending the reach of corporate networks.

(Editor’s note: To get the skinny on Centrino — and what it means for corporate users — read tomorrow’s edition of “Tech Weekly Strategies,” a new weekly column from CFO.com.)

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