The Death Of The Personal Computer. Long Live The Thin Client!
Well, not quite yet. But among corporate
customers, the future is beginning to look
promising with thin clients.
Throughout the technology industry
companies, from garage startups to Google to
Microsoft, are bracing for the possibility that
their future will be in the hands of these thin
skinny little things called thin clients. No they
are not the iPhones nor are they the smart
phones. They are real desktops that sit on your
What exactly is a thin client? As Wikipedia
states, “A thin client (sometimes also called a lean or slim client) is a computer or a computer
program which depends heavily on some other computer (its server) to fulfill its traditional
computational roles. This stands in contrast to the traditional fat client, a computer designed to
take on these roles by itself. The exact roles assumed by the server may vary, from providing
data persistence (for example, for diskless nodes) to actual information processing on the
Yes, the answer to the question is in the description itself. Thin clients are dependent on some
other computer to do the work, while PC does it itself.
What does this mean to you in real terms?
When you are connected to a network through cables, the thin
client can pretty much do most things you would do with a PC.
When you are not connected, your thin client is as a good as a
piece of brick. This brick hence would not mean much to an
individual user. However, it is a dream come true for a corporate
An IT administrator can now get all (well almost) the benefits to
his users that a PC can offer. With more and more jobs tied to
the classic Dilbert‟s cubicle, the IT administrator‟s job has
become easier. He has no more „desk calls‟ to fix just because some jerk user had fiddled with
his PC settings yet again. And yes, it solves his headache an in a way crowned him with power
to be the King. Add to it that a centralized server for your applications means a lot more secure
infrastructure. No virus and no worms eating up your and your neighbors data And now the
sweetener a cheap $150-200 price tag vs. an $800 for the PC. Organizations can indeed save
tons of money. In fact, they can even save money on desktop and productivity (usually
Microsoft). Usually a big portion of the pie, this may well help the IT Manager get a bonus to
take a vacation in Bahamas.
What then is stopping the adoption of awesome phenomenon called thin client. Well, nothing for
the “Dilbert” users. For the others it is the network stupid! The „power users‟ (read users who
rarely go to Office for work) work in their cars, at Starbucks, at the airports. Only a laptop PC
survives this lifestyle. No thin clients please!
Then there are „home users‟. There are no servers they are connected to and by definition –
there is no „other‟ PC that can do the job. There is a huge market here though. With Web 2.0
throwing in a zillion services on the Cloud – Facebook, Flickr, Gmail, GoogleDocs, Hotmail,
Messenger, Office Online, Picasa, SkyDrive, Skype, Twitter, Yahoo – why would I need
anything on the fat client in the first place. As a home user, I spend 90% of my time on the
Internet (other 10% is booting up my PC). It would do well if we can have thin client that can
work on wireless / internet connectivity alone. The browser only client. That would be perfect. It
would save me hundreds of dollars on PC purchase, a few hundred in software and another few
hundred in terms of electricity bills.
Recent trends are in the area of Web thin clients (running a Web OS) rely on the web-
based software for the application and data storage, thus eliminating the single point of
failure and the need for OS/application/data aggregation and licensing required by
traditional thin client. This place is still not mature and it will be interesting to watch this
Then of course there are those „un-connected users‟. These users are pretty isolated with
random or no connectivity to the internet. This could be because of the low penetration of broad
band internet or may be because simply they would not be able to afford the internet
connection. Well then in that case, Mr. PC is always there for you.
So, is the Personal Computer dead? Not Yet! Long Live the Thin client! Long Live the Personal