This is excerpted from an article I wrote four years ago:
If broadband has to boom in India, the computing industry will need two innovations to reinvent both its architecture and business model. After all, what will people do with fat pipes without affordable and manageable access devices and a variety of services for users to access.
To reinvent the computing architecture, we need to take a leaf out of the industry’s past in centralised computing and create zero-management access devices. Think of these as “thin clients.” To build these multimedia-enabled network computers, move the guts of today’s personal computer (the high-end processor and the storage) to the server, and replace it with the innards of a mobile phone (with a low-cost processor and limited memory). The “thick server” delivers the virtual desktops to users over broadband connections.
This server-centric computing model has many advantages. First, the access device can now be dramatically simplified and has the potential to reduce the cost to about Rs 3,000. (Keyboard, mouse and monitor would cost an additional Rs 4,000). Second, the computers require no maintenance and can now be easily bundled with the connectivity without the worry of house (or office) calls for support. Third, piracy will be eliminated since all software and content is delivered via the server, and can be controlled and monitored by the service provider.
The second innovation needed is on the business model. Instead of asking users to make upfront investments, computing needs to become a utility – available on a subscription basis for monthly payments. The pay-as-you-go model is what the world of mobile phone users and cable TV watchers is already very familiar with. This reduces the entry barrier dramatically for new users and provides a full solution at an affordable price.
Using thin clients and server-centric computing, it should be possible for service providers to offer a bundle including broadband connectivity and support for no more than Rs 700 per user per month – which is about what is paid most mobile phone users in urban India. This is the point where computing will take-off and spur the creation of a wide variety of services making broadband a catalyst of transformation across homes, offices and educational institutions.
The next platform will consist of network computers as zero-management access devices, ubiquitous broadband networks, server-based computing and storage grids as the underlying infrastructure, centrally accessible services built around hosted software and content and utility-like subscription-based payment model. This is what will take the power of computing to the next billion users globally.