In response to user demand for laptops that are as easy to manage as PCs, laptop vendors are busy adding a host of remote management features to their machines.
Compaq, IBM and Hewlett-Packard are among the companies installing management feature upgrades in their new portables. In the meantime, a group of laptop vendors is working to hammer out standards for how remote systems communicate with servers.
Analysts said a shortage of time for network managers and help desk staff, software installation headaches and complete lack of management software that works with different laptop makers' machines, have complicated remote management of mobile computers.
And information systems managers said they don't have tools to track performance when laptops aren't connected to a docking station. The problem for remote users is that after they disconnect from a docking station, they are off the network and there isn't a way to monitor the system.
Although management programs are getting slicker - they offer the ability to do inventory of remote systems and remotely get into a user's system to tweak problems - one analyst questioned whether users will bother to use them.
"It hasn't been worth their time," said Nathan Nuttall, a research analyst at Sherwood Research. "There's a lot of work involved in getting it up and going. For a network manager with 500 users, this is low on your things-to-do list."