News.com is running a contest (with some attractive prizes linked with their Release 1.0 newsletter and PC Forum 2005). It is only open for US residents to participate. Since I cannot enter the contest, I thought I’d give my thoughts on the blog – and open it to you to give suggestions.
IT industry analysts (such as Esther Dyson, editor of Release 1.0 and host of PC Forum), venture capitalists and other so-called tech gurus regularly are asked to identify exciting new technologies and trends that will affect businesses. But they don’t have all the answers.
What IT innovation have the experts underplayed…or even completely missed?
My answer: Network Computing (built around Thin Clients).
With the focus being largely on the developed markets and today’s users, the experts are not seeing the “non-users” of today — the next billion users in the emerging markets. For them, computing has to become more manageable and affordable. And this is where centralised computing comes in. The network computer may have failed in the developed markets, but it will the base for mass-market computing in the developing markets.
The idea of network computing has been around for a long time — since in fact, the birth of computing with mainframes. The PC industry solution of thick desktops built around Wintel is largely a “top of the pyramid” solution. The industry needs to borrow the idea of zero-management end user devices from the telecom industry — this is what network computing will enable.
I think network computing will power the next revolution. It will be built around thin clients, remote desktops, mobile phones also as network computers, centralised computing, open-source software stack on the servers, and computing as a subscription service. All of this will bring to the next users “service-based computing” — a step ahead of the device-centric computing that we are now engaged in.
So, network computing will help the next users leapfrog — just like mobile telephony did for cellphones. It has taken 20+ years to get to 700 million users for computing. But network computing will ensure that we get the next billion users in the coming 5 years. We need to look no further for inspiration than the mobile industry.
So, what is your take on the question?