XI. DEMATERIALIZING THE WORKPLACE. Right now we "go to work." To do work, we "go to the
office," where our tools are located. Where our files are. Where we can talk to our co-workers. We go to the
office so we can be reached by telephone, letter and telefax.
In the future, this will no longer be the case. We are going to have portable offices, that permit us to work
wherever we might be. Once information that is now stored on paper is routinely kept in digital form, you will not
need to be "near" your files, or "near" your library. You can carry them with you or bring them to you. Once you
have a personal communication number, you will not have to go to a particular place (the office) to receive faxes
and telephone calls. Your laptop computer with wireless communication links will be your filing cabinet, your
library, your telephone, your secretary. Your videolink (using a camera built into your laptop) to others will permit
you to have a "virtual" face-to-face meeting with anyone, at anywhere, from anywhere. You can see the beginning
of this approach in the following advertisement by Hitachi:
To everyone conditioned in the belief that to effect a goal you must at specific times be in a particular place, we
have an announcement:
You're off the hook. You now have the means to control events from any convenient spot. The instruments of this
are the new Hitachi Notebooks. Exemplars of an idea called Mobilized Computing.TM
The first principle: You never know where you'll be when you need to plug in.
The second: No one has time for cyber trivia. So every Hitachi Notebook comes ready to connect via 28.8 modem
to the Net, online services, two-way fax. Or to local area networks through that rarest of luxuries, a built-in LAN
Your world is a big place. Mobilized Computing assumes you'll want to use all of it."
82 ABA Journal 29 (July, 1996).
See "Welcome to the Virtual Office," part of a speech Bill Gates gave on Nov. 14, 1995: ("Today, the common idea
of an office is a place where people go to see each other and to use tools such as PCs, fax machines, and
photocopiers to complete tasks individually and in teams. However, in the future, mobile computing and wireless
communication will create a different model of how people work together."), at
Law firms will restructure to permit telecommuting in order to reduce overhead and to comply with environmental
pressures to reduce vehicular traffic congestion and automobile emissions. Telecommuting will also permit
working parents to provide more of their own child care and save commuting time. Firms that don't arrange for
telecommuting will suffer in hiring lawyers (especially women who have a second job to start when they "get home
from work") compared to those that do.
Commute time will disappear, and will be replaced by additional productive or leisure time.
Bill Gates spoke on the future of mobile computing at the keynote speech at the Comdex Conference in the Nov.
"Mobile computing will keep you in touch.
"Pagers and cellular phones now give us a greater ability to stay in touch with the world when we're on the move. In
the future, wireless communication with computers of all kinds could enable us to send and receive many kinds of
information from virtually any place and at any time.
"Cars and airplanes will feature built-in computer-based devices. You might also find them in public places such as
shopping malls. If you're a salesperson, you'll be able to review a customer profile without taking your hands off
the steering wheel or hold a video conference from a public phone booth.
"You'll also have wireless devices throughout your home. Put away your paper money and coins. In the future you
will make purchases with electronic currency (tomorrow's cash) or credit, beamed from your Wallet PC to your
local merchant's register-or to someone else's Wallet PC. Your account balance and credit line could be updated
instantly or out-of- pocket "cash" expenditures could be tracked.
"Stay connected. Receive wireless messages--text or voice--so you're always accessible and aware, and you get the
news as it happens.
"Forget about paper tickets. Pay for or charge "tickets" for sports events, travel, or entertainment with your Wallet
PC, and the transaction would be recorded without paper. When you arrive at the event, your Wallet PC will
authenticate your purchase and act as your ticket stub.
"Mobile computing will change the way we think about our offices, our homes, and our world. It will truly change
the way we live.
"The most personal of all mobile computers. Imagine a truly lightweight, hand-held, pocket-sized computing
device. Imagine you can choose one to suit your taste and needs. Everybody has one. You take it everywhere. It's
indispensable, much like your keys, wallet, and credit cards are today. That's the Wallet PC. With it, you will open
doors, pay for lunch, receive messages, and identify yourself, all electronically. Through it, you may allow many
other devices to interact with you on a personalized basis.
"Get directions. Your Wallet PC would link to location information. So, for example, in a shopping mall, you can
have your Wallet PC locate a store and give you directions. It may even be connected to a satellite location (GPS)
service. Perhaps it will also give you verbal cues when you're driving.
"Be on time. The Wallet PC would keep track of your schedule, so you can easily check what's next and see how
much time you have to get there. And any changes you make would be updated wirelessly.
"Show off your family. You'd never be without your family photos with the Wallet PC. You could even store a whole
slide show if you like."