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Analysis: The future of laptops revealed

How will your laptop look in 2011?

Companies such as Absolute Software already offer Computrace, a 'LoJack for Laptops' type service; this helps businesses track down, lock-up and recover errant notebooks by tracing IP addresses transmitted by stolen machines.

Phoenix Technologies, best known for supplying BIOS software to PC vendors, wants to take the LoJack approach to the next level. Its new FailSafe notebook management system, which notebook makers can embed into the PC's core firmware, helps track, control and recover lost or stolen notebooks. Users can encrypt, lock and even destroy data on lost laptops to protect sensitive or private information.

"The idea is not only that you can locate, very quickly, a stolen notebook, but wipe its hard drive clean," Enderle says. "By putting the code in BIOS, that makes it even more difficult to remove, or even know it's there." Look for FailSafe in notebooks starting in mid-2008, Phoenix says.

Perhaps even more intriguing, Phoenix is pushing embedded virtualisation technology for laptops that it calls HyperSpace: this technology would let notebook users boot up in seconds and use applications such as email, a media player and a web browser without firing up Windows. (If you've ever used an Apple MacBook that powers up in seconds, you know how appealing this sounds, compared to waiting for Windows to load.) Phoenix hopes the first laptops to with HyperSpace embedded in them will appear in 2008.

Fuel Cells: Out There

Overall, notebook vendors tend to treat new technologies conservatively. That means some much-discussed ideas take years to actually make it into laptops. What laptop technologies remain stuck in neutral?

"People still talk about fuel cell [batteries], and there are still quite a few companies that think they'll put fuel cells into notebooks within the next few years," Gold says. But he doesn't believe that notebook users are exactly anxious to begin carrying vials of volatile liquids in their pockets and briefcases. "That's still kind of "out there," he says.

This suits CIOs including Vitus just fine. "We're simply looking for affordable notebooks that allow us to work more efficiently and productively," he says. "We'll leave the gee-whiz to somebody else."

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