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November 2003

Corporate Nomad

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Putting the P in PC

A simple USB key enables road warriors to personalize any computer.

By Tim Bajarin

While working on a mobile computing project for a major PC vendor in 1989, I started thinking about creating what I called a “mobile brick,” a small plug-in module with a CPU, hard drive and I/O ports that could become a sort of modular PC. My vision was to have a PC shell on a desk in a hotel where I would be able to plug in my brick (which stored my data, files, personal desktop and UI on it) and make that shell my own personal computer. I envisioned a day when my local library (and even the back of every airplane seat) would have a similar PC shell available and all I needed to do was plug in my brick and they, too, would instantly become my very own PC.

Back then, however, the technology wasn’t available to deliver anything like this. While the technology is accessible today, convincing hotels, libraries and airlines to support a PC shell is highly unlikely given the low costs of PCs and the fact that if you really need a PC on the road, you can just go to a hotel’s business center or an Internet café and use a public PC. You can also use products like Laplink Everywhere or GoToMyPC to access your files from the road, but these assume you have left your PC powered up and connected while away. The one thing that is missing from this scenario is the ability to carry with you all of your files, personal UI, desktop and preferences—all of the things that make your PC extremely personal.

Well, the folks from Forward Solutions have come up with a product called the MIGO. It’s based on a USB Key Flash Drive, which I can use to carry my personal digital stuff with me for use on any PC. This unique device comes with customized software that basically allows a person to automatically download her own desktop UI, personal settings, preferences and Web browser favorites, as well as designated files, including e-mail files and folders for Microsoft’s Outlook or Outlook Express—which all become available when plugged into any desktop PC or laptop. It literally turns any PC into one that is exactly like one’s own back at home.

The entry level version uses a 128MB key ($149); the next step is the 256MB model ($199). Both of these include all of the software on the key itself to synchronize files between any desktop or laptop that has Windows 98 SE/ME/2000/XP. The first release will only support Office 2000 and 2002, but by the end of the year MIGO hopes to have full support for Office 2003. A 512MB and 1GB key will be available after the first of the year. The company also hopes to offer support for Lotus Notes by early 2004.

I recently tested MIGO on a trip to Europe and was able to turn a plain vanilla PC in an Internet café into my own just by plugging in the MIGO USB Flash Drive.

This is a very innovative approach to synchronizing files between personal computers and truly personalizing the PC. Although it is not exactly like my original mobile brick concept, it virtually does the same thing by enabling me to take all of my personal digital stuff with me and use it on any PC I happen to come across in my daily travels. •

Tim Bajarin is president of Creative Strategies (www.
creativestrategies.com), a technology consulting and research company based in Campbell, Calif.

Copyright 2004 Leisure Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
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