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TECH TALK: Next Billion: Innovations Needed (Part 2)

September 16th, 2003 · No Comments

2. USD 50 Thin Client

Home Users and SME employees need the simplest, cheapest device that can connect to the server and provide a graphical desktop to users. This is similar to the network computer idea that was put forth by Larry Ellison some years ago. In that case, they targeted the wrong market the focus needs to be on the new users, not on existing users. To make this thin client, the need is for a USD 10 CPU as part of a USD 30 motherboard in a box which has an aggregate cost of USD 50. The processing power of the CPU needs to be about 66-75 Mhz, the memory on the box needs to be no more than 2 MB RAM. The box needs to be able to run any OS which can support the vnc (virtual network computer) software. What vnc does is project the full desktop from the server.

The USD 50 thin client needs five connectors: for keyboard, mouse, monitor, network and power. A new keyboard and mouse will cost about USD 10. A refurbished monitor should be available for USD 40-50. To make matters simple, it should be able to work on 12 volts DC power through an adaptor. Thus, it should be possible to assemble a complete thin client computing solution for about USD 100-110 for every user.

The thin clients need no management and never need to be upgraded. It is computing at its simplest. It leverages the fact that networks are becoming faster and unwired. In fact, the second generation of the thin client should have embedded WiFi support. Broadcom recently announced a single-chip WiFi for USD 12-13. This way, even the need for cabling in an organization or residential colony will be eliminated.

3. The New Desktop

The computer desktop has barely changed in the past decade. The Windows monoculture has limited our world to files, directories, icons and double-clicks. This is even as the Internet and Web have taken over our lives, and created new interfaces the web browser, the email client, the instant messaging client and now, the emerging RSS reader and aggregator.

There is a need for a change on the desktop. The need is for richer web clients, ideas from computer gaming to make visually rich interfaces, and dashboards to provide us an integrated view of our digital lives and information. The volume of transactions that we do on a computer have skyrocketed in the past decade a few hundred emails a day, dozens of IM sessions, tracking an ever-increasing number of websites and blogs with their microcontent, and the need synchronisation with the other device in our lives (the cellphone).

It is time to rethink and re-engineer the desktop. What needs to take its place is not clear, but what perhaps comes closest is a mix of three ideas: a web services browser, a microcontent client and a digital dashboard.

Tomorrow: Innovations Needed (continued)


TECH TALK Next Billion+T

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