Robert S. Anthony of The Paper PC has a fun post up about a new Wi-Fi reading room at the New York Public Library. It’s an “elegant” venue with seats for up to 128 laptop users–and if you don’t have a netbook, they’ll loan you one. Sounds fabulous–except there are no power outlets at the seats. If you’re using the Wi-Fi you’re draining your battery.
The NYPL is in excellent company. Wi-Fi blankets much of our public spaces these days, but power outlets are still hard to find. Many airline terminals seem to have a total of about three outlets, none of them especially convenient to the seating (which is why you’ll often find me camping out on the carpet while I wait for a plane). Some airports now have Samsung-sponsored power “trees,” which is far better than nothing–but they’re bizarrely configured in a way that makes it difficult to plug in a laptop and use it. (Don’t even get me started on most airplanes–yes, I’m looking at you, United.)
Starbucks? Everybody gets two hours of free Wi-Fi a day, but my local one has two power jacks, both at tables usually occupied by people who don’t need them. Hotels sometimes do a bit better, but the average tech-centric conference here in the Bay Area has maybe one outlet per fifty MacBook Pro-toting attendees. Almost everywhere I go, I’m keenly aware that most of our buildings date from the age before large numbers of people toted portable computers with them. (And even structures built recently usually have a shortage of alternating current.)
I know that installing outlets isn’t always cheap and easy. I still long for the day when they’re everywhere. (Literally, almost–one per seat wouldn’t be baf.) But I kinda wonder whether the point will be made moot by laptops with battery lives so long that plugging in becomes less essential. Me, I want fifty hours on a charge…