Excitement About Thin Clients

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.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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