Is This The Future of Computing?
I remember in the mid 90’s, talk about how the future of computing was moving away from massive hard drive, application intensive computers to smaller, less application intensive computers that relied on the net for applications and storage space. The idea never took off, but things seem to be about to change.
There seems to be two approaches that computer manufactures are taking. The big guns like HP, Dell, Acer are all producing or are planning to produce a scaled back version of their higher end offerings, with there slave-ish devotion to Microsoft*. But there are a number of new manufactures looking to turn the market upside down re-write the rules with cheap computing loaded with open source Linux based software and access to a variety of web aps and online storage.
A number of factors are driving and will drive this move in computing.
- Economics- Bottom line these computers cost only a fraction of tradition desktop and laptop computers. In an economy that is forcing many consumers to be more and more price sensitive, cheaper computing will definitely have its advantages.
- Reality- The laptop and desktop computers that you buy today are way to much machine for the average user. Most people barely use a fraction of the computing power their computers provide. Applications for word processing, email, and browsing the web typically are not hard drive intensive. With continued increases in processor speeds and storage most users with far more computer then they will ever need.
- An Explosion of Browser Based Apps- In recent years there has been an explosion of browser based apps, one of the most famous and most used, Gmail. Google also offers Google Docs, a series of browser based apps that are meant to compete with Microsoft Office applications. Today, many of the applications you store on your hard drive now have a browser based competitor.
- Cheap Space- With increases in storage capacity online servers are bigger and cheaper then ever before. Only a few years ago, hosting for a web site was limited to a relatively small amount of space. These days most hosting plans offer 1 terabyte (or even unlimited space) of hard drive space for about $10/month.
- Hi-Speed Connections- Back in the 90’s most of us were still on dial up which made the web crawl at a snails pace for even the simplest text based web pages. Now more users are logging on with high-speed connections which is critical for serving up bandwidth intensive web apps.
- WiFi- Places and ways to connect are everywhere. Particulariy, in urban areas access is free and abundant. I have noticed in middle America places are still charging for WiFi access but expect this to change as more people will be able to connect through their cell plan and free WiFi access becomes a value ad for businesses.
- The Rise of the Green Revolution- Most of these mini computers sip power versus their predecessors conserving valuable, costly resources.
A List of the Players
*Dell now offers the option to load your computer with Ubuntu, a Linux based operating system.