by CIO Staff

Tales We’ve Heard (and Told) About the PC’s Successors

Jun 01, 20014 mins
Data Center

Hype about what magic box will replace the PC is not cyclical. It’s constant. Here’s a small sample of the barrage from media reports of the past.

1996: The Next Big Thing

Business Week published a special report on The Information Appliance. Excerpt: “Why, then, do you have to spend $2,000 for a PC to surf the Web? Answer: You don’t. At least not for long.”

(The authors were right. Now we spend $1,000 for a PC to surf the Web.)

In Forbes ASAP, Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy (a strong network computer proponent) gave this forecast: “Soon, hotels will be putting low-cost network computers in your room?It’s a new wave of network computing, based on the fat-server, big pipeline, thin-client model. It’s applications written once to run anywhere, safely. It’s web-centric, web-toned, and irresistibly open. But above all, it’s your choice.”

1997: Early Fatigue

From CIO came “NC: The New Wild Frontier.” The article said: “In fact, the NC is at the peak of ‘the emerging technology hype cycle,’ and the market won’t settle down for another 12 to 18 months, according to “The Enterprise Network Computer: Sorting Through the Stampede of Vendors,” a report from Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Group Inc. That means CIOs can expect vendor hype and “glossy slides of non-existent or unavailable products and features” to dominate the market, says Dave Cappuccio, Gartner vice president and research area director. That certainly doesn’t help CIOs looking for definitive answers.”

From Computerworld: “Heading into 1998, network computers, NetPCs and Windows terminals are still struggling to get out of the starting gate, and analysts say a front-runner has yet to emerge. However, the market is an important one. Neil MacDonald, an analyst at Gartner Group, Inc. in Stamford, Conn., predicts those devices will account for about 20% of the desktop market by 2001.”

(Note: Those devices now account for about 1% of the desktop market, according to an executive at thin client maker Wyse in San Jose, Calif.)

1998: Stop Making Sense

In CIO asked the question “NC or not NC?” CIOs were not answering. “Fence straddling is the strategy of choice when opinions are abundant and facts are few and far between.”

In another CIO story from 1998 on rules for cutting TCO (total cost of ownership), Rule 5 was “Consider replacing personal computers with thin clients like network computers.” One user quoted said TCO regarding maintenance and support will be half of the PC’s, adding “There’s no complicated operating system, no hard drive. Instead, it’s a tiny little box, about the size of a laptop, and with fewer parts.”

1999: Dept. of More of the Same An Business Week story, “2000 Reasons Why the Web Will Rule” includes this prognostication: “[Giga Analyst Rob] Enderle sees small businesses adopting stripped down PCs called ‘thin-clients.’ These inexpensive machines will access software over a local network or the Internet. By 2003, he expects the PC to be largely solid state. “You hit a button and it comes on as quickly as an appliance,” he says.

2000: Everything old is new again

Larry Ellison, Oracle’s CEO, an NC booster from the start, continued his crusade. He said during a Fall Comdex keynote address, according to ZDNN: “The only things left on PCs are Office and games.”

A CIO piece on TCO called “Every Last Dime” re-ignited an old argument: “But even in a straight desktop environment, thin-client technology looks to be able to make significant inroads into a business’s TCO because of its much greater inherent simplicity, irrespective of whether the definition of TCO is the narrow, technology-based one, or the broader people-based one.”

From a Business Week report about wireless technology: “The do-it-all wireless handheld of your dreams.” Close, but no cigar yet. At best, pocketing one of those connected gizmos, such as a Palm and its ilk, can be downright exhilarating. They free you from the excess tonnage of the laptops and attachments, diaries and Daytimers of today’s over-equipped business traveler. At the same time, they open up a new anytime, anywhere world that puts all manner of information&38220stock charts, plane reservations, your boss’s entreaties, you name it“at the tip of your stylus.”

2001: The Return of Penmanship

Another entry, pen-based computing, could replace the traditional desktop. In “The Pen Gets Mightier,” a review in Forbes, a new pen-based Sony Vaio notebook computer is called an “aha” product that points the way to simpler computing.