​Laptop, tablet ban? Here's why it could actually be good

An in-cabin laptop ban might wreak havoc on business travel, but there are some good side effects too.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

A proposed laptop ban on flights -- international and in the U.S. -- could lead to a few headaches for business travelers, but it also may be a boon to strategic thinking, niche businesses and collaboration technologies.

The laptop ban, which falls into the decidedly maybe category for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is designed to thwart terrorism and prevent the ability to hide bombs in large electronic devices. Now the security rationale behind the laptop and tablet ban is sketchy and has sparked a lot of debate.

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We'll ignore that debate for now. But let's ponder what happens if a laptop and tablet ban in-flight is enforced. The outcomes aren't all bad. Consider:

  • No laptop or tablet means you may be able to actually do some strategic thinking. Some of the best ideas and introspection happen when you're stuck on a plane. You read. You tune out. You even think a bit. The laptop ban is the second best outcome to nuking in-flight Wi-Fi (sorry GoGo). Without a laptop or tablet you're less likely to spend time on email, that dopey presentation no one will remember in two days and all that grunt work that passes for corporate productivity. The airplane used to be a place to think, but now Wi-Fi and a laptop has made it an extension of work. Here's the rub: Your best business ideas typically come when you're not working. Remove the laptop and tablet and you remove one obstacle to ideation. Worst case is that you give your brain a break, tech detox and some meditation time.

  • New businesses will emerge. Ed Bott recently provided tips on how to stay productive with the laptop ban. He talked about how to check a laptop safely as well as encryption. I smell a business opportunity. I can see the in-flight encryption software as an add on to your typical security suite any minute now. Bubble wrap sales will soar. Another business concept is that airlines will provide loaner laptops. Just what the world needed -- another add-on fee. But at least it's a new line of business. Maybe you'll pay extra to ensure that these loaner laptops are secure too.

  • You'll likely pull back on business travel. Traveling has its moments, but in many cases business travel sucks. You're on a flying bus, your airline status counts for a lot less than before and the return on your trip is hard to quantify. Enter more collaboration technologies and hopefully some real improvement. A laptop ban would be terrible for airlines, but probably good for collaboration tools and your companies travel budget.

  • And speaking of new technologies it's worth pondering thin clients and tools like Samsung's DeX. A laptop ban will just accelerate the need for new hardware form factors. Checking a laptop is so fraught with risk that it's more likely you'll carry a smart phone and tap into a screen and keyboard at the other end of a trip.

How to protect your laptop in cargo when you fly (in pictures)

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