A smidgeon of good idea masked by a rant.
Somewhere in that article was a good idea. Hidden amidst the bureautopian plan for living-by-numbers, Guy mentioned the long prophecied "internet appliance" (well, he actually called it an "information appliance" -- very techno-utopia 2.0).
The fact is that now is the time for the web appliance. A truly stable version of Firefox will do 80% of what users need. Stick it on a screwed-shut Linux box with stable versions of OpenOffice.org and Thunderbird, and a decent media player and 99% of the world would be happy with it.
That assumes a stable version of Firefox OOo and Thunderbird, but those are possible, if the OSS community really wants to do it. Or we could use Opera instead -- that's pretty stable.
"Stable", you say? Doesn't that limit future growth? Yes, but a £200 fire-and-forget internet appliance could, if pushed properly, increase the internet user-base by 10-20% and steal 10% of the upgrade market. That big a slice of the market would force major websites to cater for non-IE browsers. It would stabilise the entire internet (if people can't just "click here to download plug-in X", the proliferation of plugins and mutually incompatible websites would cease) and would provide serious reasons for the computer giants to start adding value with new releases, rather than adding pointless bells and whistles and imposing artificial obsolesence on perfectly serviceable systems.
But it's not going to happen, because no-one has the will for it -- which kill the goose that lays the golden egg?
If public service bodies were forced to justify using general-purpose computers rather than "internet appliances", we could guarantee a good initial uptake. After all, the PC in your public library is probably only ever used to browse the net and occassionally to word-process letters or school reports. Save money on computers and spend it on books. Similarly, approximately half of school computers will only be used for the same thing. Save the computer budget for the computing department and the techy design department, please.
A public-sector drive for efficient use of computing resources should instantly force vendors to produce more sensible machines -- who'd want to miss out on a market that big? Then they'd be mad not to sell to the public -- economy of scale and all that.
It's possible -- it's so near that I can smell it -- but I think that we're again going to pass up on the chance to make a positive change....