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back to article Google revives ‘network computer’ with dual-OS assault on MS

One of the great ironies of this year is that Google and Oracle – now owner of Sun and Java – are locked in legal combat. The irony stems from the fact that, even as they bicker, the concept they did more than anyone else to create is back in the limelight. This is what we used to call the thin client, which then morphed into …

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been there done that.

1997? Don't be silly. Try 95/96.

And don't forget Netscape was a leading fighter in the game.

Report from a friend of a friend way back then:

http://web.archive.org/web/20001003002647/users.lia.net/iandoug/computer/future.htm

A head honcho from IBM, who read the report, expected the vision to materialise around 2005. Guess things took a bit longer (.com bust got in the way I guess...)

Oddly enough, a week after this report was given to management, Bill Gates went off by himself for a week and came back with the "Kill Netscape" strategy for IE. So I often wonder if he read it too ...

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@poohbear. Before that, even.

You really need to look at X Terminals from the like of NCD and Tektronix (and Digital, HP and IBM as well) in the late '80's and early '90's. These were really thin clients using X11 as the display model.

AT&T Blit terminals (5620, 630 and 730/740) terminals may also fit the bill from about 1983. You might also argue that Sun Diskless Workstations (circa 1982/3) were actually thin clients, but that may be taking things a bit far.

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Pint

I'll have what he's drinking

I was part of the IBM Software strategy team back when the IBM Network Station was first punted around, I'd been campaigning for a long time(1988) to get a better approach to corporate end user computing that was more x-terminal like and less PC like. This presentation was one I gave between 1988 and the late 1990's I won best session at a couple of conferences with it.

http://www.slideshare.net/cathcam/enterprise-workstation-management-from-chaos-to-order-presentation

The IBM Network Station had a few pluses, it was "mostly" based on the Network Computer profile that Oracle/IBM et al were championing at the time, but it really failed for the following reasons IMHO

1. It was network boot - if you didn't have connectivity, or the boot server was unreachable you couldn't work

2. APPS, APPS, APPS - the real loss was not enough Java apps available at the get-go, and poor Java graphics. As soon as you ended up having to do Remote Terminal into a Windows server for the bulk of your work, it drove up the centralized server costs and network bandwidth became a problem. Hard to remember back then wireless was rare, ethernet not 100% reliable and bottlenecked in datacenter often

3. Lack of local memory even for caching - they typically had only very limited local memory, which effected everything for web pages to Java app load time as there really wasn't enough based on the then price of memory.

4. Lack of a good, cross platform single sign-on facility. We take the pervasiveness of LDAP and active directory for granted inside organizations for granted now, they were not back then and there was NO OpenID or similar.

Funny how the pendulum swings, old is new again. A beer? I wish I had one for every old technology thats come back as new...

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El

X terminals were poorly conceived

X made the client/server split in the wrong place, requiring all mouse input to go round trip to the server and back before giving feedback to the user. Ever try to draw something with that model on a slow network? Even dumb terminals/thin clients need to be able to perform programmed functionality locally.

If you're going to count AT&T Blit terminals as "Thin Clients", you might as well also include the venerable IBM 3270 terminals in that category as well.

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Cloud

It seems strange that the latest MS advertising campaign here keeps talking about the cloud. Mind when the adverts run, they seem to be claiming that MS cloud or Windows 7, or something MS do either -

- Photo editing (thought that was Adobe Photoshop or Gimp)

- Provide a HDMI Cable to connect PC to a telly

But they do keep banging on about the cloud.

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Anonymous Coward

Everyone's banging on about 'the cloud'

And from the sound of it 90% of people using it don't really know what it means.

I guess that's what happens when marketing pick up on a term.

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Coat

marketing

think of clouds as those things that the white stuff falls from.

since they are so fond of white stuff they can't get enough of the cloud....

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Linux

A few months ago

The hot marketing term was "innovation", I too hate when marketing empty-head drones show no mercy with a semi-technical word

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FAIL

Yawn.....

...same old same old.

Ask youself this...Why?

Here the simple answer. How many people use old XP machines, with old copies of Office, old photoshops, old coipes of this and that. Why, well it works, they are used to it and they don't want to pay to upgrade.

Now with the new cloudy solution, you can, sorry WILL, have the latest version whether you like it or not. Don't want a Facebook connecter in your office app. Tough shit, they think it's a good idea, so you'll have it.

Next, you haven't paid for that app for a decade, well that's not on. Now you get to use the new shitter version for a mere £5 a month, sorry £6, no wait £10, but hey it comes with a new facebook plugin!

You no what, we've decide we don't want to provide this service anymore as it's costs to much money. yeah yeah, I know you have all your work on the, but hey, fuck off, like we care. However for a mere £50 a month you can migrate to our new "premium" platform,,. complete with twitter addon. You have 14 days from the mail to get you stuff off. Ahh your away for 2 weeks, oh well.

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Not for the likes of you and me

And I'm surprised that it's for anyone, but it's said there's a sucker born every minute.

How much they are 'suckers' remains to be seen - and I can reel off why it wouldn't work for me and shouldn't work for anyone else, but it seems I'm not everyone else. And I'm not really judging fairly anyway.

I've set up Remote Desktops for PC's and I have to admit I was impressed. Coming from when mainframes were the order of the day how could I not be? I've also had a browser linked to my TV for a while now so the notion of 'cloud' isn't particularly new, just that my 'cloud' is nailed down in the back room.

The mobile/portable world has moved quite quickly in the past few years while industry tries to work out what people want or will buy, in a period where equipment capability and speeds have massively increased, costs have dropped and connectivity never dreamed of exists, while 'computing' has branched off into 'social networking' and, bizarre to me, similar trends.

I wouldn't dispute that people are putting themselves into the hands of people who are looking to exploit and control them but maybe it's the 'new rock 'n' roll' that us oldsters just don't get? Let them have their 'sixties revolution'; it may end in tears, we might not understand it nor want it, but I wouldn't begrudge them walking the path. After all, it's up to them. If they want to play the 'nonsense game' we reject that's their choice.

For me, I'll pick and choose. If it seems good and VFM then I'll perhaps buy into it to the degree I want to.

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FAIL

... methinks we have been here before, BOFH ...

http://bofh.ntk.net/BOFH/1998/bastard98-04.php

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The thing is...

...no one cares about this stuff.

People will still go on using Win XP or Linux.

We just don't care enough...

"Runs in "the cloud" blah blah blah" - yeah, whatever...

Not only that, but I and I'm sure others don't want their data stored 'in the cloud' (on a server for those around the age of 40) where Google can analyse it and serve me adverts based on its content.

Further more, I don't want to held to ransom for my own data whenever they decide to charge me for it, which they will. Eventually.

Can we have a "shrug" or a WTFC? Icon?

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the cloud is the new "the network is the computer"

Serious data will never be stored in clouds, no matter what Oracle or Google wants. Big business will not store critical data in clouds for obvious reason.

A tablet (be it Andoid, WP7 or something) comes handy for surfing and checking email, but that's about it, while the computing needs of people and especially businesses are far more than that.

So the "light" OS'es definitely have a future, but they'll never displace Windows on desktops.

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MGJ
FAIL

G-Cloud?

Please someone tell government IT heads in the UK that; despite a complete absence of cash or business case, they are pressing on with the creation of a government cloud. Civil servants sit in offices with LAN connections, they are knowledge workers, their security staff wont let them have WIFI access, so how the hell is this where they might go?

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@ the_kramer

You miss the point entirely. Businesses may not store data in commercial clouds, but they can have in-house clouds where they maintain control over _all_ their data rather than having it scattered over many desktop machines.

Currently they do this with Citrix/TSE in a rather expensive way because it needs both fat desktops _and_ fat servers.

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Go

Corporate World

Seems you have a fair measure of understanding of the corporate mindset and culture. Obviously one person who read your comment is totally clueless of how the big boys run their shops,

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Alert

premise/conclusion mismatch

What if they have a 'light OS' on the desktop and the data and app are on a company server(s) rather than a cloud? Security problem fixed. Backup sorted, too. Roof leaked all over your 'computer'? Here's another one, get back to work. Do you have any idea how many of those 'indispensable' Windows desktops are basically just running a browser (plus antivirus of course)? Not all of them, by any means. But a lot. 60% might not be too high.

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FAIL

"put corporate systems administrators out of work"

Having. A. Laugh.

Centralising IT support is a fool's game.

Are Google going to build the world's biggest ever call centre?

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Flame

What a horrible quote

I don't think that guy has any idea what IT does - as much as I am a fan of the ChromeOS model (not Google and not to discount the many security concerns people have about them) but that guy needs to be muzzled or fired.

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FAIL

This was a tech guy?

"He also said he hoped this would put corporate systems administrators out of work because software updates would be made automatically over the web."

Because sysadmins do nothing but install software updates. Yeah, sure.

What planet did the Reg say this genius was from?

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Is anyone home

It's clear that they are mastering voice and search, soon the worlds biggest call center will just be voice activated search... no people needed

What no muppet avatar

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FAIL

IE6

I infer that this is a reference to IE6 and why sysadmins don't install it, but that's just guesswork.

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Right and Wrong.

Some sorts of apps and users can be "served" by "clould"

Most PC applications won't be.

Performance

Security

Reliablity

Privacy

Connectivity

Specialisation

Data transfer quantity (True HD content? ha ha ha) Compare Broadcast (DVB) with 10,000 users watching HD IPTV 4 hrs a day. Or 10,000 users watching VOD IP vs local BD (BluRay) for 2 hrs a day.

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Gates Horns

Microsoft

MS have a loooong way to go, they are three-four years behind other mobile OSs and I simply don't believe they are agile enough to catch up. We'll have iOS 5 and Android 3 coming out just as MS gets copy-and-paste working.

I'm inclined to agree with predictions that MS will end up in a "race to the bottom" behind iOS and Android.

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Data

Who owns the data? And what if the service is shut down because they think you violate the TOS?

For the IPad, I agree they aren't PC replacements, but even for this:

"but mainly ones PCs aren't very good at – anything involving touch, of course, plus viewing videos or books"

Since when were netbooks and laptops not good at this? I do both just fine on mine. And I'd say they're better suited, as you can just place it on your lap with the screen angled just right, where as the IPad has to be held in your hands.

"not just netbooks, whose popularity as the leading companion device has already been eclipsed by the tablet."

Tablets now sell more than netbooks? Since when?

"However, according to DisplaySearch analysts, if the iPad is categorised as a mobile PC rather than an oversized iPhone, Apple is now the largest mobile PC vendor in the US,"

Worldwide, they're smaller than HP and ACER ( http://www.reghardware.com/2010/12/07/displaysearch_q3_2010_mobile_pc_sales/ ). And as that article points out, it ignores smartphones; Nokia sell way more than Apple. It's a rather contrived statistic to handpick a category that counts the IPad as a "mobile PC", but not other handheld mobile computing devices.

Talking of Nokia, it's odd to have an article covering all the alternatives, but to ignore the number one smartphone company.

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copy/paste

"We'll have iOS 5 and Android 3 coming out just as MS gets copy-and-paste working."

Apple finally got that at long last?

I agree it's embarrassing not to have such a basic feature (even my 6 year old cheap feature phone had it), but this criticism applied to Apple too for far too long. Next you'll be saying the IPhone is better because Windows Phone doesn't multitask...

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And how many years did it take Nokia to ship a phone with a colour screen?

The iPhone had a colour screen from day one.

Please understand the actual point that I'm making.

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Go

Economics Work For Locked-Down Applicanes

Most users are completely fed up with the hassles of

"you must use a virus scanner"

" don't click on attachments"

"never install from dodgySpyware.com"

"you have to configure the firewall for this-and-that"

"just change registry key HKEY-LOCAL-BLA/FIDDLE/DIDDLE/LALA to 62736-AFE-2323 and it will work ! "

"just reinstall you PC, then Skype will work again"

Users are not mainframe administrators, but the current PC really demands these skills. What they want is a box which allows them to surf the web, make some silly documents and print them, use it as a videophone, purchase stuff on the interwebs.

They love the locked-down iPhone and if Google can bring them a locked-down Network Computer they will love that. Because they are not the mainframe administrators Microsoft wants them to be.

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Pint

Most Windows users are completely fed up

Here, I fixed it for you!

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Linux

We have always been at war with eurasia...

> Users are not mainframe administrators, but the current PC really demands these skills.

No. WinDOS demands this thing.

Anything that is automated with the intent of "alleviating the burden" from end users ultimately runs the risk of blurring the lines between data and programs and enabling malware.

Infact, there is a current PhoneOS vulnerablity of just this sort.

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El
Heart

Why google

Users want to surf the web for porn without malicious software getting onto their machine. Windows can't handle that requirement because it is susceptible to attack, and IOS can't handle because it is controlled by a control freak who doesn't want his perfect product sullied by the availability of porn. That leaves google which may be able to deliver what users want. Whether or not they will be successful remains to be seen, but I think they have had a good track record in implementing new technologies so far (although Android has matured too slowly for my tastes.)

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@El

The browser that comes with iOS is entirely open and, even if it weren't, third-party browsers are available — including Opera Mini. Your claims are verifiably false.

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Dreaming of clouds

It will never happen wholesale - even on the platforms most likely to adopt 'cloud' services such as smart phones, who can imaging the most popular apps - say Angry Birds (let's be honest!) being cloud based? Would service providers want users downloading level data dya in day out? No. Would users want their purchases redacted at Steve Job's whim? No. Will people ever entrust their purchases to a disparate set of service providers? Not if they have an iota of sense or choice in the matter.

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Anonymous Coward

PCs and tablets

It's a bit depressing how you need a PC in order to use an iPad. Why can't it do everything over Wi-Fi or 3G like the Amazon Kindle? (Amazon says: "System Requirements: None, because it's wireless and doesn't require a computer." That's the right attitude, in my opinion.)

Also, when people talk about tablets cannibalising the PC market, they're talking about sales. So it isn't that people are going to throw away their PC and use a tablet instead. However, they might decide to buy a tablet instead of upgrading the PC. Having an iPad is definitely making me think I can probably live with my crappy old laptop a bit longer, now that I'm using it less.

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Jobs Horns

It isn't a standalone device if you still need to plug it in

Tablets and cloudbooks will only become a serious contender to replace, rather than complement, a standard PC when they're capable of updating and installing whatever software they use, and copying data, entirely over the air without the need for a dedicated host unit. The iPad's biggest weakness is that it has to be connected to a Mac or PC running iTunes in order to transfer data between it and other devices, or even between apps on itself. that's a huge design flaw which is just waiting to be exploited by other manufacturers.

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stab stab stab

Cloudbook

Please give up trying to coin new names for things, this is crap.

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Coat

Cloudbook :

An efficient suction pump in search for your wallet.

Dear Lord, so many will fall for this trick! A vast amount of stupidity has accumulated and time has come for it to be monetized. In the country where I was born, there's an old saying for this kind of situation : those who would not open their eyes will soon open their purse.

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Coffee/keyboard

An efficient suction pump in search for your wallet.

That is brilliant!!

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Linux

I hereby give you

The master priceless ultra super mega turbo best post award!

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Bloody Stupid

The whole edifice is as stable as a house of cards sitting on a snowball in the Sahara.

Therefore I fully expect it to be widely implemented by governments (and banks) across the world at great expense and no benefit to ordinary people.

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Pint

You're right, mate!

It's a stable!

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Computers without any real storage?

Hmm.

I have this tremendous feeling of deja vu

(all over again)

as many have noted

(again)

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Anonymous Coward

re: Computers without any real storage

Except these days we have cheap flash memory modules, relatively high capacity high speed compact size, so we're not quite as much at the mercy of the network or the server. And we are generally a lot more more connected than before, both in terms of infrastructure and socially.

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Linux

Linux not yet ready for the netbook

The condensed version of the article ...

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I see it now.

I predict that Google will ship 3 kinds of computers:

The Cloud model that they want everyone to move to.(purchasing agents)

The NC computer that still runs things locally.(GAMERS)

The unconnected Chrome OS that is highly modified for people who need portability and for developers.

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Big Brother

The History of the Net PC

"We have to work with Intel and its just crazy to get cross-wise with them. I hope we can reach an agreement here it's awful to have Intel sending a contrary message. They did 2 things that amaze me:"

"a) They kept the NC specification around despite saying they would not."

"b) They snuck in a server specification."

"There is some failure in communication, I don’t understand why things are so out of whack at this late stage."

http://edge-op.org/iowa/www.iowaconsumercase.org/011607/2000/PX02799.pdf

"- Expose the NC as Dead to the press and analyst: We will spend a considerable amount of our time focused on educating the press about the pitfalls of the NC in order to generate “the NC is Dead” press articles. This will cumulate in a press and analyst tour in March, coinciding with Interact World in LA. Prior to the tour, we will be delivering monthly Windows TCO wins to the press, as well as NC trial/rejecter case studies. We’ll leverage our Net.PC and WBT OEM and Partner successes, and utilize the web, onLine news banners, and other online delivery channels to get this information to our customers"

http://edge-op.org/iowa/www.iowaconsumercase.org/011607/2000/PX02817.pdf

"On the NetPC - Pat thinks we are being slow to follow-up and get the spec's out, and he is telling his guys to go ahead and start drafting. They want to have a review for the industry i January. We need to engage with them, and get ahead of them, and get the OEMs involved"

http://edge-op.org/iowa/www.iowaconsumercase.org/011607/2000/PX02597.pdf

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Thin Clients...the road to serfdom

The question is, will users and developers be tricked into giving up the empowerment of personal computers (Macs or PCs) in favor of centralized ownership and timesharing.

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20 year old code in linux vs 20 year old MS code

20 year old code in linux (or older) is, by and large, still there because it was done properly 20 years ago. 20 year old microsoft code is, in many cases, still there because they mismanaged the migration/compatibility process coming up from the mud of CP/M and DOS, and can't fix it now without breaking things that are far newer than CPM and DOS. Try creating a file called 'con.txt' or even 'Con.Air.divx.avi' on your windows machine. The reasons why you can't do this represent a pretty big fail. And, it's too late now: many (even brand new) apps need to know certain names are impossible to avoid being DOSd, so MS can't fix it without breaking all those apps. This is just one example. Also, drive letters. Drive letters? in 2010?

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Drive letters

You do know you don't need drive letters since XP. You can mount hard drive like you do in Linux. Most folks don't

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FAIL

right, but does it actually work?

Ok, but if you do this, can you determine the amount of free space on the drive? Can you defrag it? Will applications give you wrong information about the space available? The 'normal' Win32 API for getting free space, AFAIK, specifies the drive, not the directory. I think this capability was available decades ago in DOS, but it was done basically as a last resort and it did make it impossible to find out basic information about the mounted drive. This is the point: the POSIX file system semantics (hard links, sym links, etc) and the two-level view (block device vs. file system) have been nailed down for decades, and for decades all of the utilities (especially tar, du, cp, find) have known about them all and are able to deal with them properly. By contrast, Microsoft 'threw in' things like drive mounting and 'subst' and failed to support them properly with APIs and utilities. Example: NTFS added 'access time' to file system. and Windows made it useless since the only way to read it via gui -- the 'property' display -- causes the 'access' time to be set to 'now'. Fail. Example: NTFS allows hard links, and files named 'Aa' and ''aA" in the same directory (via ill-conceived 'posix' subsystem API) but if you do this you've effectively corrupted the FS since basic file utilities will be baffled by it. (I have often, without intending to, created files in NTFS volumes using cygwin which cannot be copied or deleted except using cygwin. I'm not even sure how). System features which aren't properly supported will get little use, and if little used, real support won't arrive. Not useful features then.

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