TECH TALK: Microsoft, Bandwidth and Centralised Computing: The Arguments For Centralised Computing

The central issue is not whether Microsoft should fear bandwidth. It is about centralised computing and whether it will take root or not. One point that needs to be kept in context is that most of the commentators on Mikes post are from the developed markets. My belief is that the computer world will see a schism with centralised computing (enabled by bandwidth) taking root increasingly amongst the next set of users and providing a solution that is both affordable and manageable. In the developed markets, there will be a trend towards greater remote management of desktops driven more by manageability than by affordability. More on this soon. First, let us consider the arguments for centralised computing.

The primary reason why the discussion on centralising computing and remote applications is relevant is manageability. Todays desktops have become increasingly harder to administer with (home) users being lax in installing adequate protection against viruses and spyware, and forgetting to take backups. Enterprise users have less of a problem because of better protection at the perimeter in the form of well-configured firewalls. With centralised computing, the onus of management would shift away from users to service providers who would presumably automate much of the basic management of the desktop systems. Thus, the focus for centralised computing is not so much on the savvy10-20% of users, but on the other 80%.

The other advantage of centralised computing would be in eliminating piracy. By (possibly) serving and managing applications centrally, users would be obliged to pay for the software, applications and content that they use. This would ensure that money flows back to the creators and could be especially useful for software vendors that serve emerging markets where piracy is rampant.

Centralised computing could also ensure that users have access to their data and applications from anywhere. Instead of a personal computer, the focus shifts to personal data. This is especially useful in a world of multiple devices. Whether it is a browser on a computer or a virtual desktop on a thin client or a mobile phone, users would have access to their data anytime and from anywhere.

What enables centralised computing is the availability of open-source applications. This can allow service providers to aggregate a complete stack for a much lower price than closed source and higher priced applications. In addition, centralising applications can also simplify providing updates and patch management.

What centralised computing does is enable the notion of computer as an information appliance in the form of a thin client. It can also form the base for newer business models like those seen in telecom, with user fees based on monthly payments based on usage. As we shall see later, centralised computing has the potential to make computing a utility for the next billion users.

Tomorrow: The Arguments Against Centralised Computing

TECH TALK Microsoft, Bandwidth and Centralised Computing+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.