Despite numerous attempts to kill it, it is still alive and kicking. It is "fat" some say, and it hogs up lots of energy and money. To others it is like a mosquito bearing malaria: nothing more than a transmitter of viruses and other parasites. This "source of all evil" in the IT infrastructure is also known as the business desktop PC. Back at the end of nineties, Larry Ellison (Oracle) wanted to see the PC die, and proposed a thin client device as a replacement dubbed the NC (Network Computer). Unfortunately for Oracle, the only thing that died was the NC, as the desktop PC quickly adapted and became a more tamable beast.

When we entered the 21st century, it became clear that the thin PC is back. Server based computing (SBC), the prime example being Citrix Metaframe Presentation Servers, has become quite popular, and it has helped to reduce the costs of traditional desktop PC computing. What's more, you definitely don't need a full blown desktop client to connect to Citrix servers, so a thin client should be a more cost friendly alternative. When Microsoft Windows Server 2003 came out with a decent Terminal Server, SBC became even more popular for light office work. However the good old PC hung on. First, as interfaces and websites became more graphically intensive, the extra power found in typical PCs made thin clients feel slow. Second, the easily upgradeable PC offered better specs for the same price as the inflexible thin client. Third and more importantly, many applications were not - and still are not - compatible with SBC.

That all could change in 2007, and this time the attempt on the PC's life is much more serious. In fact, the murder is planned by nobody less than the "parents" of the PC. Father IBM is involved, and so is mother Compaq (now part of HP). Yes, two of the most important companies in the history of the PC are ready to slowly kill the 25 year old. Will these super heavyweights finally offer a more cost friendly alternative to the desktop PC? Let's find out.

The Rise of Thin Clients
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  • Pale Rider - Thursday, July 19, 2007 - link

    I work for a fortune 500 company as a sys admin. We have 10,000 nodes (PCs and servers).

    Half of those are desktop business PCs and we use PCs on purpose - they fullfill the business need the best.

    The facst are, most applictions do not run correctly in a terminal server or think client enviroment. Until the software developers change this and the cost of this clients come down consideranly we have no plans to move to think clients - this is true for the majority of IT departments as well.
  • rowcroft - Thursday, July 19, 2007 - link

    It's been out there for years, but I have deployed Sun's SunRay systems and they worked great. Granted, the environment had limited Windows requirements (ran Mozilla for web and e-mail, used custom apps for business use) but those were satisfied with a Citrix deployment.

    If you're looking for a stable, cost effective environment (both from a productivity and hard cost savings PoV) then you should consider something like that as well.
  • yacoub - Thursday, July 19, 2007 - link

    I'd feel horrible for anyone working in that type of locked-down environment... no freedom, no ability to use software beyond what is installed by the default image (obviously I'm talking about winamp, AIM, and other useful items, not trojans or malware), all of your programs and processing power are at the mercy of whoever dictates how much your share of the server's horsepower you're allowed to consume and what software you have access to. Ugh. What a death sentence of a work environment.

    And for the IT department, what a dream come true! ;)
  • rowcroft - Thursday, July 19, 2007 - link

    Problem is, who gets to determine what's OK and what isn't? Try managing that in an enterprise environment. This isn't meant for a shop with 200 computers and one admin.
  • yacoub - Thursday, July 19, 2007 - link

    Why the preview lure text for articles that is posted on the homepage below the article title always cuts off and yet the exact sentence never seems to be found in the actual article:


    t's 2007, and a serious attempt on the life of the PC is in the works. Shockingly, the murder is planned by nobody less...

    nobody less than who? Please finish the sentence of the preview text on the homepage, instead of burying parts of it amongst several sentences later in the article.
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, July 19, 2007 - link

    If you go to the "IT Computing" tab at the top of the page (or whatever section the article is in) you get the whole intro blurb. they just display a portion on the homepage.
  • punko - Thursday, July 19, 2007 - link

    As a heavy guy, I resent the term "fat client".

    The biggest improvement in cost of ownership lately has been the change to LCD monitors. The effect is real in power savings.

    The biggest headache is the licensing model change by Microsoft, AutoDesk and Adobe. This may lead to a massive shift in software to open source alternatives.

    In our firm, most have PC's with a large number of laptops. Thin clients can't replace laptops, and most of us with PC's tend to push them hard, so there isn't any advantage over PC's.
  • Chunga29 - Thursday, July 19, 2007 - link

    Give me a break - take the PC (political correctness) somewhere else, please! If you're so offended, get off your duff and get some exercise, drop the fast food, don't drink sodas or juice or alcohol, and you'll be amazed at what that can do for your obesity.

    And yes, you probably are clinically obese, as are 65% (and rising) Americans. I was one of them until a year ago, when I kicked my ass into shape doing the above. Dropped from 240 pounds and 31% body fat down to 190 pounds and 16% body fat, where I have been happily resting for the past six months.

    Or, you can be like so many others and blame the problem on genetics, your job, etc. because weight issues certainly can't be caused by personal behavior!
  • NT78stonewobble - Saturday, September 15, 2007 - link

    I read it as a joke.

    Still I WOULD blame my doctor on gaining around 30 % body weight in one year when I was twelve by giving me hormones.

    Hormones that in the end wouldn't have had any effect on me. Hormones would help eg. 60 % of cases and in the rest surgery was necessary. However the initial exam of everyone with this particular problem was cut due to costs and thus everyone was given one or even two halfyear treatsments of hormones instead.

    So unless you really know the guy dont ditch him.

    P.S. Yes I've lost the weight since then. I am however still suffering from depressions going on the 10 th year and have an allmost anorectic relationship to food.
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, July 19, 2007 - link

    Thin portables do exist, and could be a reality once Wimax and/or 3G are ubiquitous.

    But I do agree that the licensing models of the bige Software guys add a lot to TCO. Is it just me or is IDC always trying minimize those by grossly overestimating administration costs? :-)

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