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Seat 54F ... And The MacBook Air

Why are people bringing devices such as the MacBook Air to work? And what does it mean to Infrastructure & Ops Professionals?

Most I&O professionals travel far less than the road warriors they serve, which means they could be missing an important personal connection with new forms of client computing. After years of lugging boat anchor-class laptops around and a broken shoulder from a skiing accident, I gave in last month and bought a new MacBook Air (yup, 13", i7, 4GB, 256GB SSD), and then spent the next month's worth of weekends getting it to work for my job. Here's why I did it, and why people in your firm are doing it too:

"Veev been vaiting for you" the Frau at the front of the 747 hissed as I stepped through the door with a sweat stain on my shirt roughly the shape of Alaska. Those of you who fly frequently on Star Alliance carriers may have noticed that Lufthansa is the only one that doesn't seem to care who you think you are on any other airline. I could be George Clooney (see "Up in the Air") with 10 million miles and a gold card from the chief pilot, and I'd still have to sit in a center seat -- 54F -- in the last row. No matter, it's where I always get to meet fun people like Ginny - the wisecracking 101 year old grandmother from Wyoming, and Jim - the head of desktop infrastructure for a large retail chain, who later became a customer.

Those of you who know what seat 54F is like on a Lufthansa 747 have a whole new understanding of customer intimacy, but the hundreds of hours I've spent in that pit of despair has taught me some fascinating stuff. One is that if I ever find the architect who failed to add the "Star Gold" field to the Lufthansa reservations database and seating workflows, I'd have the overwhelming urge to pull his toenails out. But the second is how wonderful it is that the MacBook Air is the only laptop I've found where the screen opens so that the bottom of it sits behind the keyboard. That gives an extra inch or two of clearance at the top over my old Dell, so when the football player in front of me tries to turn his coach seat into a lay-flat bed, I can still get some work done.

And so it is with productivity and the choices we make for our own IT needs. I ditched the company-issued boat anchor and spent my own cash on the MacBook, and in the process got back 200 working hours over the course of a typical year. Since my boss will probably read this, I'll base the ROI on 80 hours a week, or 5% of my salary he now gets back in productivity. For me, that's 200 hours more I get to spend doing something else. Over the 3-5 year lifespan of a laptop, that's 600-1000 hours of time back in my life, 4,200,000 beats of the heart, and maybe even a saved marriage.

My point? It's time to wake up to the new forms of client computing and how the empowered knowledge workers of 2011 must be freer to make the choices they need to deliver value to customers and to the business. Remember Jim I mentioned above? He became a customer after I used an iPad to show him some slides, piqued his interest and connected him with sales when we landed.