Cyberrcafes and WebOS

Venkatesh Rangarajan writes:

The SIFY Iway cyber cafes have computers which are stripped down Microsoft Windows with absolutely minimal storage options. Once the user logs out of the computer all the files created during the session are deleted, so the only option is saving the files as an attachment in an email message. Besides local storage doesn’t make sense, since it’s a shared PC and users might end up using a different PC during the next visit to the cyber caf.

These computers have the mandatory Microsoft Office which is used mainly for editing or updating resumes. These machines are strictly meant for browsing, but lack of choice in terms of operating system limits them to using Microsoft Windows.
Companies like Google, Yahoo which are putting together the components for a WebOS, should take a closer look at iWays, since webOS has better chance of getting accepted in this model. If Google were to launch a Gdrive, online storage of bookmarks, Word Processor, Spread Sheet etc which could be delivered over the web, IWAY can be perfect match for this technology.

Using Local Servers

Robert Cringely writes in the context of IPTV:

the supposed strengths of centralization aren’t really strengths at all when viewed in terms of the much more imposing issue of bandwidth costs, where all the advantages are local.

I explained this to a group of PBS station managers meeting last month in Orlando, Florida. Where these folks tended to fear IPTV portended the disintermediation of local television, I argued the exact opposite. My reasoning came down to the price differential between Internet bandwidth and intranet bandwidth, the latter being that bandwidth entirely within the ISPs local point of presence or data center. There is a lot more of this intranet bandwidth, for one thing. Depending on how their network is segmented, a local provider of cable Internet or DSL service may have gigabits of aggregate customer bandwidth attached to a much smaller Internet pipe. A 100-to-one ratio of internal to external bandwith is typical, meaning the effective cost of internal bandwidth is 100 times lower.

What I advised the station general managers to do was to serve their traditional audiences as much as possible over internal, rather than external, connections. This means colocating a server down at the telephone and cable TV companies.

The same idea can be used for having server-centric computing and thin clients.

PC for the Masses

Business Week writes:

Just about everybody agrees selling computers in the developing world is more complex than simply adding Mandarin, Hindi, or Arabic software to existing PCs. In many places, PCs must withstand desert heat and sand — and cope with frequent electricity outages. That requires more rugged designs that are also energy-efficient. “In emerging markets we see a huge appetite for PCs,” says Richard Brown, a VIA vice-president who heads the new PC-1 business unit, set up early this year to sell computers in developing countries. “But they need to be smaller, cooler, quieter, and greener.”

In the Tech Talk starting on Monday, I will be discussing “Computing for the Next Billion.”

Intel’s Community PC

Iamn Howard reviews it:

I think this computer is a great idea and I applaud Intel for finally making it, I think that many whom have thus far written about it have not really understood where it will be important. This is not a computer for a telecentre. This is a stand-alone computer. Labs where power is a concern ought to use thin-clients, multi-headed computers or other solutions (see “Skol Linux”), as those solutions can save much more power. These computers are suited for the home and because of the 12 volt option (or computers like them) and its low power, they will be attractive to the middle class, in their homes. With burgeoning home internet access via DSL, wireless, GPRS, WiMAX etc. people now need a computer that will work in places where electricity is expensive such as in Bamako, or too often not available, such as in Kinshasa. Hence I believe that this computer, though also suited for the village will be most useful to the new middle class of emergent markets, in the city.

Google PC Speculation

News.com writes:

On Wednesday, Allen Delattre, global managing director of the electronics and high-tech industry practice at Accenture, said during a brief conversation that “it is only a matter of time” before Google comes out with a home device.

Why? For one thing, such a home device, especially if it doesn’t come with Microsoft software or other applications, will be cheap to manufacture and buy. Google could also cut support cost by developing online support tools. Most support calls aren’t hardware-related anyway, so automating customer service or handling it through the Web should be possible.

More important, the company is increasingly rolling out services that could be promoted by a home device. The device would essentially let consumers hook into the Internet and would be populated with applications developed by Google, such as Gmail and the calendar applications. Naturally, there would be easy links to services such as Google’s video store.

New Sun Ray Thin Clients

InfoWorld writes:

The new ultrathin clients are the Sun Ray 2, a low-end model, and the Sun Ray 2FS, a higher-end version that adds a built-in, fiber-optic connector and dual monitor ports, allowing users to simultaneously connect to two monitors as if they were one unified display. This is particularly useful for stock traders and engineers who need large displays for multiple data-intensive applications, according to Sun.

The Sun Ray 2FS also has additional connectivity ports and supports a higher, 1900×1200 screen resolution.

Both models have smart-card slots to enable “hot desking,” which allows users to use Java-based cards to switch devices on the fly, starting up sessions where they left off.

The Sun Ray 2 and Sun Ray 2FS are available now and are priced at $249 and $499, respectively.

Mobile and Computer

Russell Buckley writes:

My vision is that our mobiles are going to morph into something like our digital, thin client, key to our digital data, as well as a communication device. Sometimes we’ll access that data directly, as its stored on our phones – much as we might keep games on there today. And some will be stored on the web, so we’ll use our phones as a way of accessing and unlocking this data.

And yes, sometimes, we’ll need to see that data on a larger screen and use more sophisticated tools to manipulate it – a keyboard and mouse and whatever comes next in that line. But rather than go to a computer, we’ll slot our mobiles into a docking port in a keyboard/screen combo.

The Real Personal Computer

Tom Foremski writes:

I’ve noticed lately that I feel more “personal” about my cell phone PDA and its data, than I do about my “personal computer.”

I’m quite comfortable to have my email and basic applications such as wordprocessing and publishing reside on my web host’s server somewhere out there, or on someone else’s server. But I want to keep my cell phone/PDA close to hand, which is not the way I used to feel about my PC and my cell phone–two of the most useful technologies ever created.

For example, Google will soon be able to offer integrated email, calendar, web publishing, news sources, wordprocessor, maps, search. . . with other services in the pipeline. That’s a compelling mix because it will be all pre-mashed, and drag-and-drop/share-or-not (DAD/SON).

And it all lives out in the cloud, and I can access it all from any computer–which makes any PC less of a “personal” computer. But my cell phone/PDA increasingly feels more personal–it is with me 24/7–and I can’t simply use someone else’s cell phone/PDA and access my phone’s data.

As I move more and more of my digital activities out onto the web, my cell phone/PDA grows more personal–but not my computer.

Thin Computing

Tom Foremski writes: “Wyse Technology, the leading thin-client manufacturer, told SVW that it is in talks with both Google and Yahoo, for the design and production of powerful low-priced computers integrating data, voice, and broadband connectivity.”

The growth of Internet users in developing countries could be dramatically accelerated if GOOG and YHOO were to subsidize the hardware and communications platform.

Similarly, Ebay and Amazon, could provide their trading platforms to massive new markets in the developing world.

Prices could be further reduced if the computers used Linux instead of Microsoft Windows to run a web browser-the only user interface required to access online services. And the use of Intel-compatible chips from AMD and others, could further reduce prices.

The internet rivals would be competing for hundreds of millions of new users within a hot demographic: the young middle classes forming in the developing world, primarily in India and China.

By making the PC and internet technology significantly more affordable, such moves would help bridge a massive digital divide: 84 percent of the world’s population has no Internet access.

Network Computing from Sun

Jonathan Schwartz of Sun writes on the ocaasion of the release of Sun Grid:

The Sun Grid (which will be officially unveiled in a few days) is an offering we and our partners will be expanding over the months and years to come – like any good product, there’s no end to the innovation possible. This represents not only the future of product development at Sun, but like the Java platform and the internet itself, it really represents the future of computing.

As strange as it may sound, consumers are way ahead of most enterprises when it comes to using grids (and paying for them). Most of us live on the grid at home – we use Google and Yahoo!, we love eBay, we upload and share photos and movies, and gather our news from various sources on the web. Most of us bank from home, we leverage network email services – and if you think about it, that transformation all occurred within the last decade. In the blink of an eye.

But behind the corporate firewall, the transformation toward multi-tenant grids has been slower. Frankly, it’s been tough to convince the largest enterprises that a public grid represents an attractive future. Just as I’m sure George Westinghouse was confounded by the Chief Electricity Officers of the time that resisted buying power from a grid, rather than building their own internal utilities. But that’s not to suggest it hasn’t been happening in the business world.

Browser-only PCs

Ajit Jaokar writes:

s it time to revisit browser only PCs? Would web 2.0 cause a fundamental change in hardware architecture(both PC and mobile) by facilitating a move towards the network computer architecture?

In the PC/Internet world, the browser is fast becoming the universal client. However, there is a crucial difference between the PC world and the browser world.

In the PC world, we need one type of program to run a specific type of application (word to view word documents, excel to view spreadsheets and so on). In contrast, we can use the browser to view any type of application(i.e. one client for many applications).

or as Gandalf would say – One ring to rule them all!

Already, my email, calendar and other applications are on the web. Using Web 2.0 applications like the writely , I can store all my documents on the web.

All I need is a browser. One client to rule them all!

Thus, today I would use a brower only PC would you?

GDrive?

Greg Linden writes about the presentation at Google’s Analyst Day:

Slide 31 says that Google’s philosophy to new product development is “no constraints” and that they initially ignore “CPU power, storage, bandwidth, and monetization.”

Slide 20 says (in the notes) that Google plans to “get all the worlds information, not just some.”

And slide 19 (in the notes) talks about how their work is inspired by the idea of “a world with infinite storage, bandwidth, and CPU power.” They say that “the experience should really be instantaneous”. They say that they should be able to “house all user files, including: emails, web history, pictures, bookmarks, etc and make it accessible from anywhere (any device, any platform, etc)” which leads to a world where “the online copy of your data will become your Golden Copy and your local-machine copy serves more like a cache”. And, they say that they want “transparent personalization” that uses user “data to transparently optimize the user’s experience … implicitly.”

PCs for the Poor

News.com discusses the various designs and mentions the thin client:

What it is: Thin clients are inexpensive, lightweight terminals that rely on servers to store data and crunch numbers. They’re used by banks, airlines and insurance companies in the west, and entrepreneurs such as India’s Rajesh Jain and academics like Deepak Phatak and Ashok Jhunjhunwala are promoting them for rural use.

Pros: Because they don’t need fast processors or a hard drive, thin clients can be produced for about $100, including a used monitor. Some designs use an existing TV to cut costs further. The fact that the software is centralized on a server also makes it easier to handle upgrades and control viruses. Interestingly, local leaders, rather than multinationals, are behind this one.

Cons: Thin clients rely on servers, so if the server goes out, the terminals go down. Users have also said that thin clients can run slowly if too many people log on to the server, but proponents say the technology has steadily improved.

Simplifying Desktop Management

InfoWorld has a special report. “Thin clients without internal storage or software can replace full-on PCs. That approach pushes all the patching, user-configuration, security and other management tasks upstream to server-savvy technicians in the datacenter. Thin clients cost somewhat less than PCs, but the real savings come in reducing the number of systems that need the human touch. When someones thin client fails, you just plug in a replacement and theyre back to work, because the productivity software, OS settings, and authentication all live on the server. Plus, renegade users cant download spyware-infected games or smuggle out a corporate database on a thumb drive.”

New Computing Architecture

Nicholas Carr points to a Paul Strassman video and writes:

Strassmann examines Google’s computing architecture in considerable detail, arguing that it provides a model for the network-centric computing of the future. Up to now, Strassmann says, we’ve had “millions of islands of automation,” or IT “cottage shops,” that are inherently inefficient, unreliable, inflexible and insecure. Google’s architecture is a “harbinger of a new era” of universal, shared computing.

Microsoft’s Cellular PC Concept

The New York Times carried a report a few days ago on Microsoft’s cellular PC plans:

Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder and chairman, demonstrated a mockup of his proposed cellular PC at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, and he mentioned it as a cheaper alternative to traditional PC’s and laptops during a public discussion here at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

Craig J. Mundie, Microsoft’s vice president and chief technology officer, said in an interview here that the company was still developing the idea, but that both he and Mr. Gates believed that cellphones were a better way than laptops to bring computing to the masses in developing nations. “Everyone is going to have a cellphone,” Mr. Mundie said, noting that in places where TV’s are already common, turning a phone into a computer could simply require adding a cheap adaptor and keyboard. Microsoft has not said how much those products would cost.

The Uncomputer

David Berlind writes:

Web 2.0? Not that I want to get into the middle of a WWWW, but If you ask me, it’s more like Computer 2.0. The computer that we’ve come to know and love is quickly becoming a thing of the past (thus, the “uncomputer”) and quickly taking its place (and drawing developers in droves) is a new collection of APIs (this time Internet-based ones) and database interfaces being offered by outfits like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, eBay, Technorati, and Amazon (as well as smaller private enterprises, governments, and other businesses).

Google PC?

Dan Farber discusses some of the buzz surrounding Google’s rumoured plans to launch a $100-200 PC of its own:

There’s no reason why Google can’t build and brand a $100 to $200 PC, but does the company that wants to organize the world’s information want to go beyond its search enterprise appliance hardware at this point. Is the prospect of supplying the worldespecially the developing economieswith Google hardware, and extending its footprint with more than bits, worth the hassle of being in the mass market hardware business, which is different from the beta Internet services business?

Doesn’t Google have enough to do improving its software services without expanding in yet another direction, or is growing more tentacles the order of the day. Clearly, Google could outsource most of the work and use partners like Wal-Mart to do heavy lifting. Hardware works for companies like Dell and Apple, why not Google. It has the money and headcount to invest in quality assurance and support services for a consumer hardware device, and the idea of booting up, to use an old term, your Google machine has to have a nice ring. Maybe Sun can lend a hand with Google’s effort, or perhaps the Googlers are acting as more than just a sponsor for the $100 PC that MIT is promoting.