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Rudy's View: Plane Becomes Office (5/11/2001)

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If you're a frequent flyer, you might enjoy long flights. I do. It's about the only time I can catch up on reading. I can nap, tap away on a laptop, stare out the window.

But even as we're relaxing aloft, somewhere engineers are working overtime to bring the world on the ground-the world I'm so delighted to escape--up to us. Singapore Airlines is already outfitting its planes so passengers can send and receive e-mails, even in coach class. At a passenger entertainment and communications conference a couple of weeks ago in London, trade magazine publisher Terry Wiseman said, "The killer app is in-flight e-mail ... In-flight entertainment has become such an important part of the industry that airlines are paying dollars equivalent to the cost of jet engines to put it in their planes."

Personally, I'd like to think they're spending more - and worrying more - about those engines. But the trend seems irreversible. Phones, faxes, and now e-mail will be as commonplace on planes as in offices. And that's my point: I don't want a plane to become my office. Already lawyers take conference calls on their cell phones on golf courses. I've seen skiers checking stock prices on their cells on the slopes. The airplane was one of the last refuges. I, for one, am really, really gonna miss it.

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