Since I began my career in the early 90s, flying around the world has been part and parcel of doing my job and, for me, is now as routine as waking up in the morning and brushing my teeth.

I’ve traveled to all four corners of the globe, I’ve lived and worked in some amazing places, and had innumerable incredible experiences along the way. I have flown with airlines whose names I couldn’t pronounce and engaged in countless in-flight conversations — some utterly sublime, some utterly ridiculous — with all kinds of people. I once sat next to Robert Redford. I once sat next to Sir Alex Ferguson. I once sat next to a man from Louisiana who claimed to have invented the plastic ends that you find on shoelaces. How about that?

The reason for most of this flying has been work. I used to fly to different locations to “go to work” – to an office, a physical place, a finite destination.

Gradually, newspapers, magazines, and interpersonal communications aboard planes gave way to laptop computers — the quintessential requirement for the early 2000s business traveler. Laptops increased productivity to a certain extent, sure, but back then, I couldn’t check my email and I couldn’t connect to my corporate network from 30,000 feet, so while we were getting closer, we still hadn’t hit the mark.

Close, but no cigar, as they say.

Fast forward to 2010. By then, nearly every person aboard every aircraft had at least one device capable of connecting to the internet. More and more airlines offer on-board WiFi – even on transoceanic flights. This is officially the world of the globally über-connected. We had finally become inseparable from our work. We conceded that work was a verb, not a noun.

Work is something we do outside of the physical place, outside of the finite destination. This is the Future of Work.

Think about the miracle of the enabling technology. A few simple clicks and a payment by credit card opens the airwaves to our endless supply of devices. We, the global road warriors, now have an office in the sky. Bravo. Our laptops and large-format tablets allow us to securely connect to virtualized applications and desktops via Citrix Receiver from within a metal tube, as we and our like-minded seat-mates are catapulted through the atmosphere at 500 miles per hour.

I loved 2010. Why? Because everything I mentioned above about the miracle of enabling technology was brought to life for real. And I have video to prove it.

Captain’s Log. March 24, 2017. Seven years on from the technological Eden of 2010.

Surely things have continued to develop and productivity has increased exponentially at the hands of the unstoppable juggernaut that is technology?

Well, sort of… and sort of not. In today’s world, sadly, for every step forward, there comes the inevitable step backward. Today, this comes in the guise of  “evaluated intelligence” that suggests terrorists are finding ways to use consumer devices to plant bombs capable of bringing down airliners. Serious stuff indeed.

On March 25th, 2017 — just this past Saturday — a “ban on laptops and larger format devices” came into force. It was announced that the United States would ban laptops, tablets and any other electronic device larger than a smartphone from all inbound flights originating from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa.

The United Kingdom then declared its intent to enforce a similar ban for flights heading to the island, which features a different list of airports than those stated in the United States version.

What this means, in essence, is that anyone travelling from these origin airports aboard the carriers outlined in the bans to any destination in the United States or United Kingdom will not be able to use any device larger than a smartphone. As to the question of how long this mandate stays in place, who knows? Maybe, due to credible intelligence, this is the beginning of a much more global “rollout” of the ban? Then what?

For the business traveler, in many ways, this resets the clock back to somewhere to the early 2000s. I may still be able to connect, I may still be able to check email, but that’s pretty much as good as it’s going to get.

Goodbye productivity, hello newspapers.

Beyond productivity, there are a couple of worrying side concerns, to all this. How much does storing more and more devices with lithium batteries in the hold raise the risk of something catastrophic happening to an airliner? How much more likely is it that devices will be lost or mislaid in transit? How does a corporation deal with the risk of losing devices that contain sensitive data? 

Trying times call for creative measures. Can we combat the risk of device loss, for example, that could occur when these devices are in checked baggage?

Of course we can. Using centralized application and desktop virtualization — along with containerization of mobile devices, mobile applications and data — is a perfect solution to protect the end point while allowing productivity “from anywhere.”

The centralized application and desktop resources are securely available from any end point. This is why many of our customers choose Citrix technologies – user experience, security and flexibility are at the heart of everything we do.

But we still have the challenge of the ban – what can we do to combat this?

As Rahm Emmanuel famously stated, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that [is that] it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

If I owned an airline (which is my dream job, by the way), I would be thinking hard about how I could continue to offer a premium experience for the business traveler. I would be thinking outside of the box about how to protect one of their largest and most important sources of revenue.

How? Well, what about these two ideas – let’s get creative!

in-flight

This screenshot is from the startup, or boot sequence from a “standard” in-flight entertainment (IFE) system.

For the last few years, these IFE systems have become much more rich and capable with touch-screen controls, providing a personalized experience to help pass the longer-and-longer hours spent in flight.

Most of these IFE systems, regardless of airline, run some flavor of Linux.

Citrix loves Linux. Citrix Receiver for Linux, to be more precise, could very easily provide a unique solution to any potential productivity gap caused by an ongoing situation as imposed by the two bans described above.

Your airplane has Wi-Fi? Has IFE? Has touch control? Has a large, fixed screen? Runs Linux? Add Citrix Receiver for Linux and, presto! Your office in the sky is back! You may not have your laptop with you, but you could turn your in-seat entertainment center into a tablet, of sorts, to be able to access all of your corporate apps and email via a secure virtual desktop.

Or, how about this scenario?! What if the airline – as Virgin America pioneered – was able to provide passengers with “FAA/CAA Approved” on-board devices (such as a Google Chromebook) that were “loaned” to business passengers as part of their differentiated service offering? The integrity of the device is assured. It’s not been tampered with – it’s a mobile thin client for the duration of the flight.

Citrix loves Chromebook. Citrix Receiver for Chrome, to be more precise, could also serve as a unique solution to help bridge the productivity gap.

As more and more customers move to centralized application and desktop delivery, regardless of whether that is on-premises or in the cloud, the power of Citrix shines through.

Citrix is not only enabling organizations to be more secure, more flexible and more adaptable; we’re the only company who can provide realistic workarounds to whatever may come as a result of the heightened state of alert that has become our “new normal.”

We are the technology that keeps the world moving. We are the Future of Work.

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