The G-Drive vs the Future of the PC  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , , , , ,

Every so often, the mainstream media puts out a story that says the PC is on its last legs. The latest, a Fox News story that "Google's Rumored GDrive May 'Kill' the PC," suggests that the Google Drive would shift consumer interest away from Microsoft's OS in favor of cloud computing.

I've read stories about the death of the PC for the last 15 years, and as you know, PCs are still going strong. Even in a down economy, manufacturers will still sell at least 260 million of the things worldwide in 2009. But it's true that what constitutes a "computer" will change over time; the more interesting debate should be around what forms, what functions, and what processors will dominate the PC landscape in the future.

In the most extreme view of this new computing model, applications, data, and back- and front-end processing will exist in the cloud. In essence, it's the mainframe model of the past, with the cloud serving as the mainframe and the PC as a terminal or thin client of some type. There is a measure of truth to this idea, though it assumes that we'll get much faster broadband speeds. And even then, the front-end dumb terminals would more than likely resemble PCs—screens and user interfaces built into appliances, thin clients, and perhaps even netbooks with lightweight OSs. I think this view of the future is what the Fox News story was trying to evoke.

Even if we did get a GDrive that served as our computing back-end in the sky, many front-end devices, depending on what they are being used for, could still need serious CPU and graphics coprocessors to handle mainstream business and consumer applications. Hence the future of the PC seems more complex than this story would lead us to believe.

A more likely scenario is that the average home will have at least one very powerful PC that can handle the video and graphics-intensive applications consumers will demand in the future. Think of things like HD video, 3D images and games, and next-generation apps running simultaneously—and instantly accessible. This PC would also become the home media server. Since PCs of this nature really do become the center of a family's digital lifestyle, people will want as much processing power as they can afford so that they could benefit from what Cisco calls a more "visual networking" environment. A lot of people will also have smaller laptops (thin clients, perhaps) in other rooms of the house for accessing and manipulating their stuff, whether in the cloud or local. And we'll have computers built into our refrigerators and stoves that rely pretty much exclusively rely on the cloud for their data and back-end processing.

At the business level, computing will shift away from desktops, moving almost entirely to portable computers, including laptops, netbooks, and smartphones. There will be a place for thin clients, too, especially for use in call centers and for other types of data-processing functions, and we will continue to need workstation-class PCs in the enterprise for things like desktop publishing, graphics creation, and scientific and engineering applications. (full Story)

This entry was posted on Feb 4, 2009 at 10:58 AM and is filed under , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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