TECH TALK: The Digital Divide: Thin Client and Thick Server

2.The Thin Client.

The USD 100 desktop computer needs to provide all the functionalities that users are accustomed to seeing on a computer in the corporate environment: a Graphical User Interface (GUI) with multiple windows, email, instant messaging, a Read-Write Environment for documents, spreadsheets and presentations, and a web browser. But none of these applications actually need to run on the local desktop.

Think back to the late 1980s and early 1990s when Novell ruled the networked environment. The desktop was almost like a dumb terminal with applications coming from the thick server. To achieve the price point of USD 100 on the desktop, the hard disk and CD need to be eliminated and applications need to be served from the “thick server”.

This “lite desktop” makes for easy management and administration of the desktop – there really isn’t much to do! If a desktop hardware gives a problem, simply replace it with another system since all desktops are uniformly featureless. A person can use any desktop to connect to the server.

3. …and Thick Server

The Thin Client talks to a Thick Server, which could be any machine being marketed as a desktop today.

All the mails, files and user preferences are stored on the
server. All applications are also stored on the server, which is
connected to the Internet for updates. The thick server simplifies the
IT infrastructure management dramatically and lends itself well to
remote management. This is important because many of the small and
medium enterprises will not have the requisite technical staff to
manage the servers (which by themselves will need little

The Thin Client-Thick Server combination may seem a radical idea in a world of USD 1,500 desktop machines which have 1 GHz processors, 1 GB RAM and 40 GB hard disks as base configuration. But let’s not forget our target audience: users who are being exposed to computers in businesses for the first time. For such a tech-starved audience, a beginning needs to be made. Remember our first taste of computing in universities? It is more than likely it was a simple terminal. The next 500 million users are just as hungry as we were a decade ago.

The Internet is the one big difference from the early 1990s. It is the glue to interconnect people and enterprises, and also serves as the distribution medium for content and software. Sun’s vision of the “Network as Computer” is perhaps much more relevant as a platform to bridge the digital divide and build a foundation for making computing a utility.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.