Although a recent eWeek Poll is indicating movement towards Vista with new hardware, it also identified a great deal of satisfaction with XP suggesting IT is going to drag its feel. Windows feels exposed and is probably well past time that it was rethought.
Wal-Mart just booted Linux, and the OS hasnt exactly been a poster child for growth. And the MacOS has never been more than a bit player in the enterprise, though the iPhone thanks to the SDK is suddenly getting a surprising amount of enterprise interest.
In addition, compelling new offerings like the Mojo Pack for enterprises, and a release from Pandigital for consumers, really have me thinking that the market is getting ready to make a big move. But it doesnt yet know which way it is going to jump yet.
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Back before the IBM PC, and actually for much of the 80s, proprietary mainframe and mid-range computers were the way we did things. But, by the mid-90s the industry had moved and we mostly had UNIX doing the back office heavy lifting and Windows on the desktop. In about a decade the old proprietary platforms went from unbeatably dominant to niche players playing in ever smaller (though often very lucrative) niches.
To make the move it required a hardware-independent player of sufficient scope (Microsoft) so that they could be enhanced by an enterprise player of sufficient power (IBM) to drive the change. I maintain that if Microsoft had been stronger their partner could have been weaker and the same result would have occurred. By 1990 Microsoft had gained enough power to go it alone and actually stopped IBM from taking the market back.
There was only about five years from when the process really got underway until Microsoft could take off the gloves and take the market. Things appear to be capable of moving so much faster now.
Cloud Computing: One Key
From HP, to Microsoft, to Google, the world is taken with this idea of Cloud Computing. But what that really means is you no longer have to run a lot of things off of the client. Right now, if you think about it, you could probably cut your desktop operating costs significantly by moving to something like the Mojo Pack, which is currently one of the placeholders for full service cloud computing on the desktop.
Once you can leave your applications and data in the cloud you really dont need much of a client and can move to something that is vastly easier to install, update, protect, and support.
I dont think this is truly a thin client yet because our love for multi-media and the need to compress and decompress the data to optimize the limited network (particularly wireless network bandwidth) requires power at the client end right now, though a company called Teradici could help change this. In addition, we dont yet have pervasive wireless, but a caching/syncing solution like that from Sharpcast could close that gap near-term.