We recently covered Bandwidth is microsoft's enemy and also covered Broadband redefines consumer electronics sector.Nicholas Carr writes complicated, expensive, vulnerable, and underutilized computers are not needed on every desk. Excerpts with edits and my comments added:
PCs dispersed the power of computing to individuals, spurred ingenuity, and boosted personal productivity. They made companies leaner and smarter and they sped the development of networks, leading ultimately to the establishment of the Internet as a thoroughfare of commerce. But the rise of robust, high-capacity networks has also made the desktop PC less essential. Computing resources - from processing power to storage capacity to applications can increasingly be provisioned to users from afar.To gain economies of scale, companies are consolidating their hardware and software assets in central data centers or even renting the capabilities they need from far-flung utility suppliers. Unlike in the home, where the PC is the engine of computing, in business it's just a cog and not even a particularly important one anymore.
Most workers employ their desktops for a few routine tasks -- typing reports, creating presentations, running spreadsheets, checking e-mail, browsing the Web. These aren't exactly the kind of applications that require the latest Intel or AMD chips. Most of those uses matured years ago. With each new upgrade, the gap between the capacity of PCs and the needs of average business users yawns wider. IBM estimates that about 95% of the average desktop's available computing cycles go untapped. Storage has a similar story. PC’s may be cheap but factor in the considerable labor and other costs that go into maintaining and updating fleets of workstations and all the software that runs on them. Then there's the fact that PCs often represent the biggest security hole in today's companies, a gateway for the evil-minded hacker and a repository of ready evidence for the litigious. It's getting harder to look at a business PC and not see an anachronism waiting to happen. Today companies like Sun are offering cheap, durable desktop terminals that draw all their power, storage, and applications from central servers. They don't even have their own operating systems. On the software side, Web-based and -hosted applications, which users can tap into through a simple browser interface, are proliferating. As the utility-computing model takes hold, the case for keeping desktop computers in companies will only grow more tenuous.
My Take: Nicholas is right in his logic - but there are four problems with this theme:
- First is the reliability of the network and significance of local content.
- Second - the additional "spare" cycles on these desktops actually represent not "wasted" computing power for companies, but more of an "untapped resource available on the fly." Distributed applications are becoming more common, and not all of them are completely server-based - they can also leverage on untapped desktop power.
- The change management issues associated with millions and millions of users - this would make a huge impact in any consideration towards newer form of computing.
- Migration to a newer platform from an almost ubiquitiously available system would prove to be one of the major endeavours ever attempted in the new economy.