Today, while pondering the future of technology (seriously - I'm writing at least one article on it) I had an idea. One that, if I found all the right partners, could be a very cool project, product, and business niche. It even is in somewhat keeping with many different current trends, could have real business (and personal) value, and appears at least on first though very technically doable.
Here is the "elevator pitch" - "An iPod meets a Palm, but can boot a PC"
A little bit more, and then I must go and think about this further - connected to a PC this device would act as a portable, large, harddrive (bootable), the PC system and hardware would be fully functionall but the user could be running in their own personal environment, with their own software, and files. All this with probably biometric security on the device itself.
Disconnected the device could function as "just" an iPod like MP3 player, might also have cell phone capabilities, could have wireless access capabilities.
It could also function as a PDA - probably running a DIFFERENT OS than when in a "connected" mode - different in that the form and functionality set of a handheld is very different than when connected to a full desktop system (graphics capabilities, processing power, memory, and perhaps most importantly power.
The data on the device would be split - most on the hard drive, but some in memory as in a typical PDA (though care should be taken to provide for some automated backup to avoid power drainage resets and data loss.
The business value of such a system is that potentially at least it could allow for the long dreamt vision of "network" PCs to function - the key point being that rather than assume that netowk access is available to get all required systems from the network, and requiring that the local machine be specially configured (either hardwar or via a software such as terminal services) this model suggests that given a large, highly portable harddrive, capable of being connected by a fast and standard connection protocal (firewire, USB2 etc) just boot off that device, have an OS capable of getting the functionality of the local devices in a simple and automated manner, and then perhaps also connect to specific network resources - but in the same manner than typical desktop user does that - as needed.
This model also has the advantage of potentiallly allowing that even older machines be used in this new regime - as older machines would still usually have at least a USB connector - they might be more limited in speed than nerwer systems with faster data connections - but perhaps not by much.
There might be some BIOS issues with some older machines as well (perhaps a floppy boot disk could be carried is this is a common problem.
How is this for a cool scenario of the future - for a very minimal fee, you walk into a Kinkos ANYWHERE in the world, plug in this device, and in seconds are working with your files, using YOUR copy of specialized software, but can quickly print to Kinko's printers, use the PC at Kinko's for its graphics card, keybord and mouse, and perhaps try out some of the specialized software that Kinko's has installed on their system (and perhaps if you like it, buy a copy right then and there - but that is another discussion for another day).