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Sunday, September 25th, 2005, 6:11 am

Personal Computers as Relics

A repeated argument of mine gains strength and gets somewhat augmented as the president of Sun Microsystems speaks out. He recently predicted the diminish of the personal computer, which slowly gives way to on-line services.

The majority of the applications that will drive the next wave of innovation will be services, not applications that run on the desktop. The real innovation is occurring in the network and the network services.

In essence, the Personal computer becomes a host. Looking at an alternative direction, data itself, as well as an O/S and applications, can be accessed via the network (network boot) or even from a pocket-sized device. Whether that path will wind up catching on or not — this we are yet to discover.

Laptop and iPod
The little ‘object’ on the left has the most responsibility. The laptop may act as merely a relic, a host.

The idea of “Web-based everything” is not far-fetched. As we already see complex, JavaScript-based HTML Editors, maybe documents and spreadsheets will turn Web-based in the near future. Physical output can be printed from the browser, resulting in rich, high-quality layout as we approach Web 2.0 (some would argue 1.5) and CSS 2 (and higher). If you are inclined to think that the idea is preposterous, have a look at a complex Web-based mail client that relies heavily on several Web technologies which are available and are properly supported by all major platforms.

There are many more state-of-the-art examples, which embrace that approach of complex AJAX-reliant design, e.g.:

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