Thin Office Computers

WSJ writes:

Organizations are taking PCs off people’s desktops and replacing them with “thin client” systems. Each worker gets a computer screen, keyboard and mouse. But a central computer room stores all the data and does most of the processing — slashing support costs and making it much easier to track and restrict how workers use their machines.

Thin clients have come and gone over the years. Now they’re enjoying a revival as the cost of maintaining networks rises and employers are flooded with demands for tighter security and record-keeping. Bob O’Donnell, director of personal technology for IDC, a market-research firm in Framingham, Mass., predicts that by 2008 thin clients will account for nearly 10% of the market for desktop computers at large and medium-size companies, up from about 5.4% this year.

IDC projects even faster growth for related systems called blade PCs. Unlike thin clients, which run off big central servers, blade-PC systems give each worker a trimmed-down version of an ordinary PC but store the machines in a central computer room for easier maintenance. IDC predicts sales of blades will grow to 6.5 million in 2008 from just 350,000 this year.

In general, thin clients’ appeal isn’t lower purchase costs. Some cost almost as much as desktop PCs — depending, for example, on whether they use the Windows operating system or a less expensive one. Blade PCs often cost more than traditional PCs, because of the software and hardware that connect them to the central network.

The savings come in managing the desktops. When employees can’t slip in virus-laden floppy disks, and the computer professionals can upgrade security protection and add new programs at the touch of a button in the computer room, maintenance costs decline sharply. And the total cost of ownership drops in turn.

Google and Small Businesses

CBS News had a segment on Google recently. An excerpt from the transcript:

Eric Schmidt, Googles 49-year-old CEO who was hired in 2001 to be the resident grown-up, says that the pool of potential advertisers is almost limitless: “Theres a lot of evidence that the companies of which Google is a member are enabling a new kind of commerce, between very small communities, people who can find each other, for whom the traditional advertising mechanisms, whether its television advertising or radio, do not serve.

“An example: a friend of mine named Peter puts his credit card in and he give us $50 [for a sponsored link]. And his wife knits a particular kind of rug. I said, ‘Call me back, give me an update.’ So Peter calls back and says, ‘Were ecstatic. For $50, we got all these customers.’ And I said, ‘Well, how many did you get?’ And he said 100. And I thought, ‘Wow, you know, thats great. What a wonderful outcome.’ And he said, ‘Theres a problem…my wife does one rug per year.’ So thats all the revenue were ever gonna get from Peter.”

But there are millions of Peters out there, and billions in potential ad revenue. The business world is just beginning to grasp the potential.

Taggle

John Battelle points to Brian Dear, who imagines a search engine where user-generates tags are searchable: “…if more and more services in 2005 add user-generated tagging, will ‘federated tagging’ be far behind? And if someone were to index all the tags from these various sites…. would the result be Taggle? Imagine: a service where you type in a keyword, and you get back all the hits that have that word as a tag. If Flickr, del.icio.us, and umpteen other sites cooperated, then an uber-tag-search service might just work.”

CNN’s Top 25 Innovations

CNN lists the top innovations of the past quarter century:

1. The Internet
2. Cell phone
3. Personal computers
4. Fiber optics
5. E-mail
6. Commercialized GPS
7. Portable computers
8. Memory storage discs
9. Consumer level digital camera
10. Radio frequency ID tags
11. MEMS
12. DNA fingerprinting
13. Air bags
14. ATM
15. Advanced batteries
16. Hybrid car
17. OLEDs
18. Display panels
19. HDTV
20. Space shuttle
21. Nanotechnology
22. Flash memory
23. Voice mail
24. Modern hearing aids
25. Short Range, High Frequency Radio

Blog Plasma

John Battelle writes:

Recently a colleague contacted me and asked if I had anything interesting to say about blogs and how they might shape the media world in the next year or so. My initial thought was “Why of course I do!” – but the fact is, it’s not easy to have something interesting to say about blogs that doesn’t require a hell of a lot of throat clearing, groundwork laying, and general hand waving. Try to explain to an intelligent layperson the power of blogs – it’s not easy. The perfect piece has yet to be written on the true power and impact of blogs; at least, I haven’t seen it.

The I thought of MusicPlasma. The thing I like about it is how intuitive it is – put in the name of a band you like, and you find more that you might like but had never heard of.

Hey, I thought, what if we did that with blogs, and instead of Amazon data, we used Technorati cosmos data, or Feedster data, or Findory, or Bloglines, or some combination of all of that plus more? “Folks who read this blog also read that one,” for example. Or “Blogs who link to this blog also link to that one.” If we put a sophisticated interface with some dials and levers, it could really be a neat tool for exploring relationships in the blogosphere. I could imagine some cool slices that might parse this wildly growing ecosystem in interesting ways.

MIMO

Walter Mossberg writes about a new version of Wi-Fi that expands both the range and speed:

MIMO — which stands for Multiple Input, Multiple Output — is likely to be the basis for the next major flavor of Wi-Fi, now under development, which goes by the technical name 802.11n. It’s intended to replace the most common flavors used in homes today, which engineers call 802.11b and 802.11g. But MIMO is so good that makers are rushing it into the market even before the new standard is complete.

Here’s a greatly simplified explanation [of how it works]: Standard Wi-Fi base stations send out a single data stream, even if they have two antennas. This single stream is diluted by a number of factors, including “scatter” — the tendency of radio waves to bounce off objects and thus travel over multiple paths, not all of which reach the receiver.

But MIMO base stations send out multiple data streams using multiple antennas (three in the case of the new Belkin and Linksys units). The receiver card then scoops up the scattered beams from their multiple paths and reconstructs them into a single, strong signal.

TECH TALK: The Best of 2004: Mobility and Memex

8. Russell Beattie on the Mobile Web (November)

Russell Beatties essay was an eye-opener. For long, I have been among those who believed that the cellphone was never going to replace the PC. Of late though, I am re-thinking that assumption, given both the trajectory of innovation in mobile phones and its omnipresence with us as a personal device. When I first started reading RSS feeds on the mobile, it was an Aha moment similar to the one I experienced when I first browsed the Web using Mosaic and a Netcruiser account a decade ago. The mobile web is happening and we better wake up.

Of course people are going to want to access the web from their mobile phones. Why wouldn’t they? They’re not going to want to be walled off in some mobile-ghetto, but rather have the full-on, do everything I can do from my desktop on my mobile phone, access to the web.

I think people are going to want to view and use the web from their mobile devices just as quickly and easily as they use the web from their PC. And not just for when they’re moving around, but when they’re on the couch as well.
There’s going to be a point in the not so distant horizon, when most people are accessing the internet from their mobile phones, rather than from PCs. it’s a fact. Businesses are realizing this and retooling for this new mobile world already. Manufacturers are making efforts to standardize on open specs (XHTML, SVG, etc.) and improve screen resolution (QVGA 320×240 will probably be the sweet spot) and websites are starting to embrace web standards as well. There’s this vanishing point in the horizon when all these parallel lines converge, and I think that’s where the mobile web is heading.

I don’t see the future as one where there are different mini-webs per device or proprietary ways of accessing content and services, but a multi-device norm which adds some pressure to the webmasters out there, but forces a shift to web standards to meet the demand of billions of data-connected handsets all sporting standard minibrowsers.

9. Jon Udell on the network is the blog (December)

Reading Jon Udells article made me think of Vannevar Bushs Memex. What bloggers are constructing is an emergent information system we still dont have the top-level views to appreciate the landscape that is getting constructed. But we will very soon. My own reading habits have changed expert bloggers take precedence over mainstream journals for deep insights.

Just as telephones are meaningful only when connected to the telephone network, so blogs are meaningful only when connected to the blog network. Both are carriers of human communication, but where the telephone network is essentially fixed — at least for now, until VoIP softens its structure — the blog network is malleable and is shaped by our use of it. Its more like a nervous system than a computer network, and for good reason.

The crush of information we process every day creates a terrible dilemma. On the one hand, we must conserve the scarce resource of attention. On the other hand, we need to become aware of everything that matters. Its a tricky balancing act, but one that natures humblest creatures have adroitly mastered.
We cant say exactly how the trick is done, but we understand the basics: a network, a message-passing protocol, nodes that aggregate inputs and produce outputs. The blog network shares these architectural properties. Its foundation network is the Web; its protocol is RSS; its nodes are bloggers. These ingredients combine in ways that are not yet widely appreciated.

Consider how my own inputs have evolved over the past five years. At one time, my RSS intake was mostly feeds from conventional published sources, along with a few from individuals. Now its the reverse. I subscribe to people more than to publications, and not because I dont value the information in those publications — I do, very much — but rather because, outside of the realms in which Im closely involved, I can delegate the job of tracking primary sources to people whose interests and inclinations qualify them to do so.

The blog network is made of people. We are the nodes, actively filtering and retransmitting knowledge. Clearly this architecture can help manage the glut of information. More subtly, it can also help ensure that no vital inputs are suppressed because nobody has to rely on a single source. If one of the feeds I monitor doesnt react to some event in a given domain, another probably will. When they all react, I know it was an especially important event.

The resemblance of this model to the summing of activation potentials in a neural system is more than superficial. Nature knows best.

Tomorrow: Education

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