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Scoble is wrong about thin clients

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When you cannot comprehend the revolution, you try to poo-pooh it. Scoble, having been assimilated by the borg, laments desire for thin client type functionality as a “disease that’s all the rage lately.” He thinks thick clients are coming back. Like Bell Bottoms, Disco Music and Happy Days!

Given that this meme has started to spread, time to upgrade the post from asides to a full post status. Scoble replies on his blog, ” when you get Photoshop in your browser let me know, OK? And technologies like WinFS will keep thick clients relevant for more than a decade.” Two points – how many people actually buy PhotoShop, versus people who do normal computer things like email. I guess, his argument about thin clients is classical PC myopia. I see a phone, I see a thin client. I see a broadband set-top box I see a thin client. I see a PC-replacement device the one being built by Novatium, I see a thin client.

Thick clients will be around for a long long time, bit its a market that is in a slow growth mode. If that was not the case, why would Barons of Redmond being doing backflips trying to get a piece of cell phone etc business.

Larry on Approaching Normal has his take here

13 Responses to “Scoble is wrong about thin clients”

  1. Reminds me of the PC killing the Mainframe. Didn’t happen. There will be a place for thin clients and a place for thick clients. Just as there is a place for mainframes. There will be a rationalisation of usage with thin clients taking over for uses they are really suited for and thick clients finding their place.

    Complicating the issue is the way OSes will be changing to the point that trying to define a thick vs thin client will be hard.

  2. Bill Dollars

    Just saw details of the recent funding listed below … display technology likely to morph into ultra-cheap/high performance thin client. Agree it is not always the best architecture, but don’t underestimate the cost savings in an enterprise environment. Desktop cost savings is not an issue: massive cost savings are to be had in simple administration and centralised control of enterprise apps and resources. It’s all coming together.

    – – – –
    7 July 2005, Cambridge, UK – Newnham Research has secured $8m Series B financing from two of the leading global venture capital firms: Atlas Venture and Benchmark.

    The announcement comes as the company, who are developing powerful new ways of connecting displays to computers, prepare to launch their first products with a selected group of international partners.

  3. I’ll trade my ability to edit spreadsheets on a plane for cheaper software and universal access to my data any time, and I think Fred Wilson would agree. Yesterday he complained that DRM wasn’t scaling with his family’s mobile lifestyle; if you squint and till your head to the side a bit it’s hard to distinguish between DRM and Scoble’s thick clients.

  4. This just feels like classic Innovator’s Dilemma stuff… the antiquated technology moving upmarket and leaving the simple stuff to the inadequate new technology.

    Of course MS – Scoble – anyone-with-a-vested-desktop-interest will focus on the outlier situations (at least outlier compared to mainstream needs) — traveling & designing, in this case.

    But in the end, as Christensen modeled for us, the new, inferior tech will eat away at discarded lower-end markets until it can satisfy enough needs of enough customers to cause a massive customer shift away from the incumbent to the new technology.

  5. It’s funny how these discussions get pulled into the all or none bucket.

    Do I want to spend my entire day in a thin client? No, not as long as I am playing my ITunes, working with PowerPoint and checking my Outlook.

    By the same token, the percentage of my day that is spent in a web browser continues to increase. And through programming methodologies like Ajax and the emergence of rich messaging pub/sub models around RSS, the thin experience is getting a whole lot better.

    Plus, let’s not forget the fact that the trend on new applications developed is decidedly towards building a web variant first and then maybe extending the app to a richer fat client for power users.

    The reasons are obvious. It’s quicker, cheaper and easier to launch and iterate on the developer side and its quicker, cheaper and easier for the consumer to try before buying.

    Not an all or none, but the gravitational pull is pretty clear.

  6. Seriously, though, does anyone really want to work in a web browser all of the time? I love the new AJAX style stuff, so don’t get me wrong, but it’s really so much nicer to work with a client-based native application.

    Google seems to recognize this too with their rich-client entries. Also, there are times when you are disconnected from the network. What’s the alternative there?

    I know there’s lots of poo-pooing of Windows OS, but the simple fact is that it runs on most people’s machines and there lots of stuff coming down the road (in the short term), that will make deployment of rich-client apps easier via the net or web. I can see the flames coming now, so I’m outtie here ;)

  7. Hey, nothing wrong with Bell Bottoms, Disco Music and Happy Days! :)

    Everything wrong with PCs that don’t really do anything more than they did 10 years ago.

    If there has been any growth at all in terms of functionality, it has been on the web+browser front. And if that is the case…

  8. As somebody who likes his tools available in a standard browser, I say the thin client model sounds great. I can manage my life on any machine, any time via a standard web browser. Plus it extends the life of older machines (like the bubble iMac I’m on right now) because it does away with the hefty hardware requirements of bloated applications like Microsoft Office.

  9. actually, for on this one, i am going to kind of beg to disagree. the problem is we think of thin clients in PC terms. look at it another way … the mobile phones – they are thin clients.

    think about the thin client in a post broadband era. if you look at the first generation of thin clients, they were bandwidth starved underpowered machines that pretended to be PCs.

    the new generation thin clients are going to be seriously popular in emerging world, where pipes are fatter and wallets thinner.