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Re: Lucent Technologies & Sun Microsystems

>>>NCs are not likely to be any more "mobile" than a notebook or palmtop PC is.
>>I realize that the current NC architecture doesn't really solve the
>Right... it doesn't change much of anything at all.

The hardware architecture of NCs will be significant only if it acheives a
significantly lower price.  The real potential for change is in the
software architecture.  If the money backing NCs make a better OS such as
Inferno commecially viable, then NCs will have an important effect on our
information economy.  If NCs just try to be a cheaper way to run standard
PC applications, then you are right, they won't change anything.

>>but there is an important issue that everybody seems to have
>missed.  One of the promises of ubiquitous network computing has always
>been availability of information.  Needing to have your palmtop in your
>hand to find the information you typed into it yesterday is annoying.  The
>information should be available wherever you are using the nearest
>available computer HI.
>Yeah, but when you're on an airplane at 36,000 feet the palmtop in your
>hand is
>a HELL of a lot more accessible than the information safely locked away on an
>(unreachable) server system somewhere else.  I've owned dozens of calculators
>and almost as many pen-and-paper personal notebooks... and although it's
>probably the LEAST easy to use for either purpose, the one I still use the
>is the one built into my watch... simply because I *always* have that one

You are making my point.  Ready availability of information is crucial to
its value.  Our network infrastructure is moving toward data networking
everywhere -- even in an airplane flying at 36,000 feet.  Wouldn't it be
better if the information you enter into your watch was also available at
your desktop, only with a better UI?

>>Timesharing systems implemented much of the HI
>processing on the box that stored the information.  PCs do the same thing,
>only they move the control directly into the hands of the user.  NCs hold
>the promise of finally beginning the separation of HI processing from
>information storage management.
>Rubbish.  LANs have allowed just such separation for a long time already.  In
>fact, Datapoint's Datashare "DSnet" facility offered stuff like you're
>about "finally beginning", but twenty years ago.

A great many things have been technically feasible for years and may have
been implemented years ago, but the topic is the mainstream of computing
and what shape our information technologies will take in the years ahead.
XWindows running on X terminals is another example of the separation I am
talking about, but X put the division of labor between client and server at
the wrong place in the overall system architecture.  Sun's NeWS came closer
to the right architecture, but never caught on.  Even X never made it to
the mainstream.  As I said at the beginning of my message, I don't think
the current NC architecture is the right one so they, by themselves, won't
get us there.  But, the fact that people are seriously thinking in this
direction and putting money behind their words means that we are ready for
a shift in basic architecture.

The Web has started this shift.  Information is kept on servers, browsers
provide HI processing running on clients, and the same information is
available from any computer HI with an internet connection and a browser.
But the Web has it's limits, performance is a problem, information capture
isn't simple enough, and management of personal information isn't there
yet.  The next big step is to make information entered anywhere available
everywhere.  This is where a secure, distributed OS such as Inferno can
shine.  With the right information managment architecture, devices running
Inferno combined with ubiquitous networking can get us there.

>>This will allow the information to be
>available regardless of the state of any particular HI device.  The worst
>feature of current generation PCs is that they can be TURNED OFF making the
>information they contain not readily available.
>Any computer system I'm aware of can be turned off.  Servers included.
>And just
>because you COULD turn a system off doesn't mean you DO.

PCs typically are turned off, or at least disconnected from the net.  We
need a computing infrastructure with repositories of information that are
typically not turned off or disconnected from the net.  This is why a shift
from current PC software (and maybe hardware) architecture is important.

>Gordon Peterson