VoIP Business and Virtual PBX

It's 2016, and Chrome Operating System is ascendant

The fat client desktop system has ruled computing for 30 years. Could Google Chrome OS and other cloud-based, thin-client systems dominate the then and there 30?

The very first PCs were just appearing when I started using computers. We had already seen the advent of microcomputers and minicomputers. Those machines were designed for people who loved innovation, not people who loved getting work done with research. For work, you used mainframes and midrange Unix and VMS computers with a terminal on the client end. The CP/M-80, Apple II and IBM PC changed all that. Fat client computers took over the world, and they're all in all reigning, in the form of Windows PCs and Macs.

Not that the old mainframe/terminal model ever in effect went away. Some companies on the whole issue thin customers that are deep down input devices, with most of the actual computing happening on a distant server. Others use its descendant, client/server systems. More companies might have stuck with those models, nevertheless users made their preferences known. They liked the "personal" in "personal computer." They wanted their computers to run just the way they wanted.

But as always happens with research, evolution continued. Over the last few years, PCs have become commodities. Off the top of your head, can you explain what differentiates Dell from HP from Lenovo PCs? In the meantime, we've moved huge quantities of our business and consumer computing to the Web and the cloud. That means that today, there just isn't that much that you can you do on a PC that you can't do on a Chromebook. To all intents and purposes, some people, including yours in point of fact and Computerworld's J.R. Raphael, were already using Chromebooks all the time even earlier the recent refresh.

What keeps that combo from winning the day is the reluctance to rely on a machine that can't do much of anything without an Internet connection. Nevertheless that resistance is going to fade as we all begin to realize that the same thing is more and more true of fat customers.

Microsoft seems oddly intent to help Google achieve its plans. Have you seen Windows 8? I have, and I hate it. That's not blind Windows bashing. I like Windows 7; it's the best desktop Microsoft ever created. However Windows 8 throws away the Windows 7 Aero interface and replaces it with Metro. If you know how to use a Web browser, you already know how to use Chrome OS, although it's in effect just the Chrome Web browser running on a thin layer of Linux. You don't -- boy, how you don't -- know how to use Windows 8.

What I see happening

So here's what I see happening. Four years from now, in 2016, most desktop users will however be using Windows -- nevertheless it's more likely to be Windows 7 or even XP than Windows 8. There will be more Mac OS X users than ever previously, yet not as many as will at the time be using Chrome OS. What will be most important, although, is the trend, and most of us will be moving to cloud-oriented operating systems.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been writing about innovation and the business of research since CP/M-80 was cutting-edge and 300bit/sec. was a fast Internet connection -- and we liked it! He can be reached at sjvn@vna1.com.

More information: Idg