IBM Dreams of Pushing Microsoft Off the Desktop and Stomping its Clinging Fingers (LinuxWorld): "The Workplace Client Technology costs $24 a head a year; the Workplace Messenger and Workplace Document are $29 apiece for each user over three years. IBM is also going to charge $2 a month to support the servers. The price drops in large volumes."
Now, if this happens, IBM will be aiming the products at business users. But at those per-seat costs, Google, or Yahoo could offer them to everyone... as FREE services, supported by advertising.
This notion of centralizing applications (and the data that goes with them) back on a server where they belong (because on the server they are relatively safe from viruses, backed up daily, and can be accessed from anywhere on the net), first surfaced several years ago as the thin-client initiative, promoted among others, by Larry Elison of Oracle. That initiative failed, mainly due to the fact that vendors of the hardware got greedy, often offering the "thin-client" devices at a cost HIGHER than the standard PC they would be replacing. Needless to say, potential customers were not impressed.
Since then, the idea has surfaced again, about two years ago, when a company called Citrix was demonstrating the possibility of running Windows desktops in a window on Linux, and other Unix machines, or in a web browser interface on just about any computer equipped with a web browser. The system worked so well that Microsoft promptly paid Citrix for rights to use the product themselves, afterwhich, the idea suddenly stopped getting mentioned much by either Citrix or Microsoft. Conspiracy theory anyone?
Whereas the above concept would have continued to result in licensing charges being paid to Microsoft for each client system, these new initiatives don't involve Windows at all. Will this prompt Microsoft to pull the Citrix rabbit back out of that hat? Let's hope so. Maybe they too can offer Word and Excel usage for free to MSN subscribers. The average home user, the kid in high school doing a book report, and many dunderheads in business and industry are not nearly sophisticated enough to need a $400 word processing package. They don't do backups, they don't know about firewalls, and can't be trusted to update their virus scanners. The world needs a newer and safer paradigm for computing. Microsoft has proven that they can't secure Windows no matter how hard they try. Time to give up, all of us, and try something else. Server side computing is the way to go, and if Microsoft wants to play, welcome to the party.