TECH TALK: A Mass Market (Part 3)

Centralising resources on the server and providing thin clients on the desktops interacting with thick servers can be used as the platform for re-thinking the enterprise IT architecture. For the cost of a single thick desktop, it becomes possible now to provide 5-7 users with thin clients, leading to a multiplier effect through the proliferation of computing across the enterprise. This in itself will make organisations begin to rethink the way they do their business.

There are two predominant types of users in a company: the ones who use a computer, and the ones who dont. The ones who are using a desktop are likely to be using MS-Windows and MS-Office (Linux is still a rarity on the desktop). Their habits are hard to change. In the developed markets, Microsoft software controls over 95% of the desktops in corporates. In addition, everyone who needs a computer has one it is a saturated market. However, the case is very different in emerging markets. Microsoft still rules the desktop segment, but the penetration levels are small. In countries like India, they are at 5-10% of the employees in a company. Putting it differently, Microsoft serves a niche market in the emerging markets.

This is where the Linux-based thin clients come in. It is not about migrating existing MS-Windows users to Linux, but creating a new market and new users, and a peaceful and transparent co-existence between the two worlds. It is about bringing the have-nots into the world of computing. They are the ones who havent used a computer before. They can be trained to use a thin Linux desktop, which is quite similar anyways to an MS-Windows desktop. It is easier to teach a new language to a baby than it is to teach it to an adult.

The thin clients need a thick server. The server is where all the software resides. The Internet creates the mass distribution system for software and content, which is delivered to the thick server on the LAN. For companies, the network is important but not critical since all the applications that they need are available on the local network. Updates can be delivered continuously through the Internet to all thick servers. The Internet also helps connect multiple locations together, with data replication.

The ideas are not new. Lotus Notes had a similar client-server architecture with replication across locations. In fact, that is the world which is the reality today for most companies in emerging markets communications to the Internet and across locations is at best intermittent. So, one has to thinking of data availability in real-time, one has to think of near real-time.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4 of 5 will be published tomorrow.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.