Someday in the future, once people have stopped giggling about how all telephones once were wired to the wall, they’ll still have trouble containing their laughter about laptop computers.

In this future, computers are so ubiquitous that the idea of lugging your own will seem as odd as someone today carrying around their own TV. With computers everywhere, why bring your own?

Prices of computers continue to plummet, so the economics of ubiquitous computing may make sense. But getting people to feel comfortable about flitting from computer to computer —- using whatever machine is available at work, at home or on the road —- will require some innovations.

Despite their outward sameness, most computers are so personalized with desktop preferences and software that borrowing someone’s computer can seem as creepy as borrowing their underwear.

Researchers at the Intel Research Pittsburgh laboratory in Oakland think they may have an answer in a project they call Internet Suspend/Resume.

By taking advantage of the Internet, distributed file systems and a concept called virtual machines, Internet Suspend/Resume allows a user to stop, or suspend, work on one computer and then move to another computer, perhaps at home, or even across the country, and instantly resume that work.

The computer desktop at the second machine would appear identical to what appeared on the first machine’s monitor when work was suspended —- the same programs and files open, even the cursor at the same spot.

It sounds simple, maybe even trivial to some. “People don’t realize how hard we have to work to do this,” said Mahadev Satyanarayanan, a Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist who just ended a two-year stint as the Intel lab’s founding director.

More here.