Desktop Ideas

Gregory S. Hopper of Netanium Strategic Consulting has some interesting ideas on rethinking the desktops, and learning from the automobile industry.

As we explore Linux on the desktop, we can learn from the lesson of the Model T. After nearly 20 years in production, customers started to want different things from their cars. Some wanted performance, some wanted luxury, others wanted safety, cargo capacity, or any of a number of other attributes.

A similar situation exists today with the PC. It is a tremendous machine that has transformed our lives, and will continue to meet the needs of many people. But…while improvements have been made (most notably graphical user interfaces, multimedia, and networking), the fundamental design like that of the Model T some 75 years ago has not changed.

More importantly, neither has the basic operating system design and license. It is highly integrated, comprehensive in scope, and resource intensive.

What if the PC industry changed how it thinks of itself? Instead of PC makers, they would be network client solution providers.

As I’ve noted, people who use PC’s don’t all have the same requirements. Therefore, they shouldn’t all have to use the same machine. If an executive only needs to do email and access business metrics in a browser, why not simply give him an executive-looking machine with Ximian Evolution and a fully enabled Mozilla browser? (Maybe hook up a Palm Pilot to it, too, for convenience.)

A machine on the shipping dock might be able to get away with just running Mozilla to track packages and schedule shipments. (The Messenger component might be sufficient for the email needs of these people.) All these machines should run 24/7, without rebooting. Ever.

I’m not talking about thin clients, where programs run on a server and display locally. I’m not necessarily talking about embedded devices, either, but a lot of principles from the embedded space make sense for these machines. I’m talking about complete machines that are functional even when not connected to the network. I envision a hybrid of thin clients, PC’s, and embedded systems, where the function is well defined, and the hardware and software are designed together to maximize the productivity of the people who use it.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.