“Municipalities in Finland that have switched their schools to Linux and other open source solutions are saving millions of euro. Typically, our centrally managed open source computers are at least 40 percent cheaper than the proprietary alternative. The total savings could be 10 million.” This is what I have been writing about all these years. Using FLOSS and GNU/Linux in schools saves a bundle. There are the licensing costs straight up and then there is the flexibility of the GPL versus the restrictions of the EULA. Configuration and operation are trivial by comparison with FLOSS, because you can do whatever you want immediately. I’ve seen it repeatedly. New systems cost half as much and migrating old systems costs a fraction of that. The saving in money is important but so is the saving in time. In a typical school the effort could drop from many hours per week to minutes.
In a manner similar to the sale of the PC business, IBM has agreed to sell the x86 server business to Lenovo. One detail that I think is important is that “Approximately 7,500 IBM employees around the world, including those based at major locations such as Raleigh, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Taipei, are expected to be offered employment by Lenovo.”
I think this means a considerable increase in Lenovo’s GNU/Linux talent pool… Will any of that leak into the client division? With thin clients perhaps it does not need to. The talent’s mostly on the server anyway. This could erode Wintel in business eventually. It’s about time.
See IBM’s announcement.
Some of the trolls lurking here keep harping that small cheap computers just cannot replace the legacy PC because they lack something: keyboards, kilowatt PSUs or whatever. The fact is that that a large segment of users don’t require those “requirements”. Their purposes are multimedia and Internet, something small cheap computers have been able to do for years now.
“It’s not that you can’t use a laptop to do any of these things. I’ve used a laptop as a tethered shooting companion for photography for years now. Seeing instant feedback as I shoot speeds up the process and makes editing faster, it’s great. But I’ve never wanted to use a laptop. They’re bulky, they’re not the right form factor and they’re not optimized for easy one-handed operation (not counting the one you hold them with, thank you). And some of these cases, like diving, present an impossible challenge for laptops. They’re simply not the right tool for a lot of jobs.”
Then there’s mobility… something everybody but the bed-ridden have and many people want in their IT. You just can’t lug around kilowatt PSUs or even hair-driers as easily as a small cheap computer. If you don’t need a keyboard, why drag one around, especially those flat keyboards found on notebooks? I hate those. Give me my zombie keyboard from Fujitsu anytime. It fits my hands and I can plug it into a small cheap computer if I want to type… A big box AND a keyboard are not what I require. I just need a keyboard. I also want a big display, something I can’t have with a notebook so small cheap computers work for me. For storage I can use a server. For heavy computing, I can use a server too. I don’t need either of those in my client PC. I use a truly networked OS, GNU/Linux.
The writing is on the wall. The slowdown in sales of ATX boxes and notebooks is real. It’s not a fad. Small cheap computers are taking over a huge share of IT whether M$ and fans are ready or not. The world is not going to wait for Wintel to get its act together. While the current share of tablets and smartphones is significant, imagine a world in a few years with this kind of sustained growth.
IDC: “For the full year 2013, unit shipments declined -10.0% from 2012, a record drop reflecting the changes in mobility and personal computing affecting the market. While commercial purchases helped to prevent a larger decline, the consumer side remained weak.”
IDC: “worldwide tablet shipments are expected to reach 221.3 million units in 2013, down slightly from a previous forecast of 227.4 million but still 53.5% above 2012 levels. Shipment growth is forecast to slow to 22.2% year over year in 2014 to a total of 270.5 million units. By 2017, annual market growth will slow to single-digit percentages and shipments will peak at 386.3 million units, down from the previous forecast of 407 million units.”
IDC: “worldwide smartphone shipments are expected to surpass 1.0 billion units in 2013, representing 39.3% growth over 2012. Despite a number of mature markets nearing smartphone saturation, the demand for low-cost computing in emerging markets continues to drive the smartphone market forward. By 2017, total smartphone shipments are expected to approach 1.7 billion units, resulting in a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.4% from 2013 to 2017.”
Unfortunately, I can’t drive around to a lot of retailers to examine their shelves so this survey of the web will have to do. I will restrict myself to Canadian sites. The rest of the world varies, I know.
- NewEgg.ca – nothing shows under “operating systems” that I like but a search for Linux reveals that the Acer TravelMate TMX483-6856 sold out with one good review. ASUS Eee Box Intel Atom 1GB DDR2 160GB HDD Capacity Nettop Linux EBXB202-WHT-L0039 is in stock for $150. ASUS sells a newer model, EB1030, but Newegg.ca no longer carries it. They do provide links to other PCs such as Avatar Celeron 4GB DDR3 500GB HDD Capacity Desktop PC Ubuntu 12.10 LinuxPC U for $230. Congratulations for offering some choice although it’s minimal.
- NCIX.com shows only Acer TMX483-6691-US Core I3-2375M 4GB 500GB 14in DVDRW BT Linux Notebook after a search for “Linux” in “desktop PCs” and at $370 it beats NewEgg’s price. A search for “Ubuntu” gives Asus Notebook 1015E-DS03 10.1inch Celeron 847 2GB 320GB GMA 6Cell Black UBUNTU Retail for $262.08. A search for eeeBox reveals they have in stock 9 units of EB1030 at $262.05, you know, the GNU/Linux unit running Ubuntu 12.10… With keyboard and mouse, that’s interesting. No points for making these products easy to find, however. They need a better search engine or information-flow.
- CanadaComputers.com found nothing for “Linux” in nettops, notebooks and tablets. A search for “Ubuntu” turned up Asus EeeBox PC Black (EB1030-B003L) Intel Atom D2550 1.86GHz, 2GB DDR3, 32GB SSD,Wireless 802.11b/g/n,HDMI/VGA/COM, Linux Ubuntu 12.04 in Desktop PCs/miniDesktops for $259. I noticed they sell a ton of servers, mostly noOS and no hard drive, many are certified for RedHat or Suse. At the low end, $349, one could add a hard drive and make a decent desktop PC…
- TigerDirect looks interesting. A search for Linux in desktops revealed 3 Wyse and one VXL thin client ranging from $295 to $355. The VXL box has WoL and PXE, so you can boot it up with most GNU/Linux distros. With 1gB and Via C7 CPU it should make a good thin client or a minimal PC. Notebooks turns up Acer Aspire V5-131-2887 – C 847 / 1.1 GHz – Linux Linpus – 4 GB RAM – 320 GB HDD – 11.6″ CineCrystal wide 1366 x 768 / HD – Intel HD Graphics – black at $357.76. A search for Ubuntu turned up the eeeBox 1030 and eeeBox 1033 for ~$25X.
- Walmart.ca yielded nothing except Chromebooks and tablets starting at $59 with a few kids-only tablets around $25. Well, they all had those… The highest-priced tablet I found was Acer ICONIA A110 7″ for $128. I guess they’ve figured out that small cheap computers sell. It turns out that iPads are in another department… That was “back to school”. Under “Electronics” “Android” finds a bunch of tablets from $59 to $200. Surprisingly, there were no Samsung tablets to be found! Has there been a falling out? No. A search for Samsung finds a mess of them starting at $200 (Galaxy Tab 3 7″) and going to Galaxy Tab 3 10″ at $377.
So, FLOSS is out there but the bastards still don’t make it very easy to find especially if you don’t know what you seek. What’s with that? Doesn’t it pay to advertise any longer?
Combine state of the art hardware from Intel and optimized software from Google and what do you have? A big bite taken out of the Wintel pie:
“Chrome OS represents a new form of computing," he said. "We are seeing great momentum there. External analysis estimates that they already represent over 25 per cent of the sub-$300 category. They’re big in education as well; they’re now deployed in over 5,000 schools in the US, which represents over 20 per cent of the school districts.”
This should put paid to the FUD coming from the Wintel camp, that M$ will save Wintel. It’s not happening. Just as Apple could not build a $500 tablet, Wintel cannot make decent small cheap PCs. Meanwhile the world turns and people love small cheap PCs because they are good enough for what people do. Because ChromeOS is essentially a thin client, much of the work of system maintenance is done remotely and users are not generally IT people. That works.
Here, let Google tell you why Chrome OS is wonderful for users.
Of course, Chrome OS is an on-ramp for the cloud and may well end up running lots of non-free software that works against the interests of users but it surely is smooth and will sell.
“According to IHS iSuppli Compute Platforms Topical Report, lower-end computers classified in either the "mainstream" category or the "value" the mainstream desktop PCs is expected to account for 46.9% of the market each by the year-end, while the top-end PCs will account for only 6%.”
I have been writing much the same thing despite trolls spamming my blog with tales that high-end PCs are the way to go and that everyone should have one. It’s not true and here are the stats to prove it: only 6% choose high-end PCs. For everyone else ordinary PCs in almost any format are good enough. That’s what Moore’s Law does in the end, makes RAM and CPU inexpensive. You only need enough CPU and RAM to be expensive if you are crunching large data, which most of us do not. Hence the rise of the smart thingies, the ultimate small cheap computers that fit in your pocket of hand and do everything a desktop of a few years ago would do for ~$100, and it runs on a tiny battery… no more cables dangling… That’s price/performance, what people really care about. And the OS? */Linux of course. You don’t get any lower price/performance than $0/gHz-gB.
I have been writing for years about the benefits of FLOSS including GNU/Linux and thin clients in education. Government usage is not that much different so this combination should be useful in government as well. Apparently Extremadura thinks so:
“CIO Cayetano reaffirmed Extremadura’s support for open souce. Examples include the migration of the desktop PCs to a thin client infrastructure using Linux, and an overhaul of the region’s website, using an open source content management system.
In January, CIO Cayetano announced the start of a large-scale project to replace the current proprietary desktop software with an open source desktop. With 40,000 desktops, that would make it Europe’s second largest open source desktop example, between the French Gendarmerie (90,000 desktops) and the German city of Munich (14,000 desktops).”
Just do the maths. Asking the user’s PC to do less and the servers to do more is as natural as consolidation of servers only much more powerful in reducing costs. Thin clients suitable for desktop publishing, for instance, cost as little as $50 for the box whereas a notebook will cost at least $300. Considering you can have a better keyboard, monitor and mouse with the thin client for ~$150, there’s a savings of $100 per seat which can be used to buy an absolutely wonderful server or buy a totally adequate server for $30 or so and invest the rest in something you really need. Then there’s the operating costs. Less electricity, less fiddling, and no malware makes the IT just about free of cost in comparison.
Yes, Extremadura was ahead of the curve when they adopted GNU/Linux but they are a bit behind the times adopting the thin clients. Better late than never but then their GNU/Linux solution has probably reached the lifetime of its hardware. It’s time for change and still further reduced cost and complexity.
Thin clients are nothing new but Acer producing them is. Another interesting point is that some of these are ARMed so we could be seeing even more widespread adoption of */Linux on ARM and x86. DevonIT’s deTOS OS is one of the options. Acer is one of the top PC OEMs on Earth. They know people are loving small cheap computers.
“The new Acer Veriton N2110G Series comprise robust x86 thin clients that provide top-rate performance for power users. The Acer Veriton N2620G Series models are compact and flexible rich clients offering a TPM 1.2 compliant design and mainstream performance. The Acer Veriton N2010G Series are ultra compact ARM-based thin clients capable of delivering a rich multimedia experience at a significant value. All three series provide multi-tasking processing power, essential manageability and security tools as well as industrial compliance. Acer’s thin clients will be available through Acer resellers with prices starting at $239.”
Thin clients are wonderful. They are:
but M$ wants to take away one of their chief advantages. This is what BILL VEGHTE said in an interview at Credit Suisse Annual Technology Conference 2008:
“we’ve been very successful in making sure that if you want the full Windows experience on there, that that is not — that doesn’t hit our average selling price. It’s delivering that Windows experience just through a different model, but our ability to deliver that, to extract that value instead of sort of a royalty type thing, do it through Client Access Licenses, server side and client.”
I will stick with GNU/Linux, Bill. I want it all. Compared to those big, old boxes, they are beautiful, eh? Let us reclaim the desktop.
IDC has issued a press release:”IDC Predicts Current Economic Crisis Still Provides For Pockets Of Opportunities Within The Asia/Pacific (Excluding Japan) Region in 2009
12 Dec 2008
…9. Thin Clients Will Ride The Wave Of Cost Cutting And Desktop Virtualization
As the market matures, and better vendor collaboration results in software standards merging, virtualization to cut costs will extend beyond server virtualization in datacenters to virtualizing the desktop. In addition, deploying thin clients and a virtualized desktop environment will also reduce the carbon footprint. IDC is therefore optimistic and predicts that thin-client deployments on the back of desktop virtualization will gain traction in 2009, and further accelerate into 2010, as PC replacement cycles peak across the region. Full year 2009 thin-client shipments are expected to grow within the 12–15% range over 2008, to about 765,000 units.
10. The Economy And Mini-Notebooks Will Challenge The Way Computers Are Used And Sold In Asia/Pacific
IDC expects mini notebooks, a new product category created due to demand for devices that support mobility, to increase from around 5% of total notebooks shipped in the APEJ region in 2008 to more than 10% in 2009. The small cutesy form factor will be the primary selling point, but it will also change the way these devices are being used. With limited processing power and storage, users will be heavily dependent on being connected to the Internet, eventually running applications through the cloud. This demand for connectivity will further change the way mini notebooks are sold – instead of retail stores, partnerships with mobile operators are expected to proliferate with devices sold in service bundles like mobile phones, leveraging operators’ cellular 3G infrastructures. With vendors already looking at ways to overcome the challenges associated with this product category, IDC believes that mini notebooks will change the way traditional notebooks are used and sold.
This reflects the excitement I have been feeling about thin clients in education for several years. They are a great solution for cost-cutting and manageability. Of course, the IDC report is not only about education but the whole market in APEJ. Still, if businesses see the benefit, schools should as well.
The connection with netbooks is that both thin clients and netbooks share common features:
- low cost
- low footprint
- low power
- low noise
, all bringing value. The lack of horsepower for video is unimportant in many cases and, with the march of Moore’s Law, perhaps this will disappear as an impediment. That leaves the question, Why don’t more systems use thin clients?. I have no answer. Everyone to whom I have shown thin clients loves the improved performance and small footprint. Perhaps not enough people have seen them yet. I intend to change that in a small way at my next conference of teachers. I have a portable lab of thin clients under construction and will show it off with GNU/Linux, standard desktop applications, some particularly useful in education and some web applications like
Perhaps the IT industry is nervous about thin clients. After all, if thin clients cost less and last three times as long, isn’t there less money to be made selling them? Yes, but you should be able to sell many more and the servers to go with them. It is a paradigm shift, not the death of IT.