When I was writing about Always-On technology, back in 2003, at the heart of my talk was the idea that a WiFi router should become an application platform, holding memory and processing power independent of the computer it's attached to.
This would allow medical monitoring, home inventory, or home automation processes to continue even when the main PC was turned off for the night, since these applications have to work all the time to be useful.
Now I'm learning about a new application platform built along those lines. It's the stick memory.
You probably know about memory sticks. These are memory chips connected to a USB port. You plug in the USB stick and gain access to the memory. This caused the final obsolescence of floppy disks, because a memory stick could have gigabytes of data and a floppy just a meg or two.
But it's now being used as an application platform as well. My first initiation into this was RoboForm, a program meant to hold all your personal passwords, sent me by the man who launched this blog, Martin Bayne. Seems they have a version called RoboForm2Go, which runs off a USB stick. This solves a big problem I have, namely the fact that I use a laptop. With RoboForm2Go, I can run my passwords off a stick, and use the same stick when I'm on the road, using my laptop.
One more important point. Once you can load software onto a USB stick, you can load it onto any device with USB memory and run it from there. You could have a screenreader loaded in your MP3 player, for instance, which would run when you're at a friend's computer. (That's what the illustration above shows, from RJ Cooper & Associates.)