A few random thoughts about in-flight Wi-Fi, cloud computing and connectivity

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Maybe it was the appearance of the fabled Google Phone — also called the Nexus One — over the weekend. Then again, maybe it’s all this recent talk about cloud computing, and the potentially game-changing Chrome operating system.

Could also be the scuttlebutt about the Apple Tablet. Or the fact that I’m writing this from seat 22A on an AirTran flight back to Orlando.

No matter. If someone with some vision is able to blanket the country with WiMax access points in the near future, and all of our data is stored somewhere in the cloud, and we could access all of the data from tablets, or netbooks, or phones, then we are headed for an interesting future.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners. Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Travelers may be on the verge of experiencing a computing revolution. I don’t use terms like “revolution” lightly. But imagine being able to access your information anywhere, anytime and from almost any platform. Kind of boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

There are a few major obstacles, though.

Cost. Even at $10 or so to connect to Wi-Fi inflight, it’s still not worth it for most of the passengers on my flight. (Actually, I don’t see anyone using Wi-Fi. Except me.)

Speed. My connection is intolerably slow. Most users will not put up with so-so speed when their data is stored remotely. The technology has to be better.

Availability. There must be a more efficient way of accessing your data through a high-speed connection than installing wireless access points on every plane. If cloud computing is the future (and I believe it is) then we need more ubiquitous, reliable coverage.

I like Google’s idea of paying for high-speed access at America’s airports for the holidays. What if it expanded “free Wi-Fi” indefinitely and began deploying it in other public areas? What if it upgraded the access points to WiMax? What if someone — anyone — with vision tried to help travelers make a better connection to their data.

That would be revolutionary.

(I’d like to thank Elizabeth Smith and GoGo Inflight for making this post possible. I had just wrapped up a column while I was heading home on AirTran flight 181 from Washington to Orlando, and I remembered that Smith (@cestbeth) had tweeted about GoGo’s coupon code for a free Wi-Fi connection — 2285637934zfa) and here I am, getting a little work done at 36,000 feet.)

(Photo: heatfan1/Flickr Creative Commons)

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