Direct Assault on Wintel

The most direct assault on the Wintel monopoly I have ever seen happened last week. Onlive is going after Wintel two ways, while using Wintel stuff:

  • Providing access to M$’s OS and applications without end-users remitting a licensing fee to M$, and
  • Providing access to M$’s OS on ARM independent of M$’s approval.

Normally, such a service would be completely legal for copyright and patent law but M$’s EULA is so restrictive… Apparently OnLive believes they have a way around the usual restrictions on M$’s stuff to a single simultaneous user, authentication and all that. It remains to be seen whether M$ will find a way to tax OnLive or whether M$ will take OnLive to court. They must be in negotiations for an injunction not to be in the works.

BTW, the performance quoted from various sources for this thin-client/terminal server setup is far superior to the usual random PC and single hard drive because of file-caching, better hardware on the server and a high-speed Internet connection, something I have been telling people about for years to great derision from the fanbois of thick clients… ;-).

I expect some new territory will be covered in the strong interaction between OnLive and M$. M$ cannot allow anyone to be better at delivering a desktop in the cloud than M$ does from retail shelves. That really threatens the monopoly. Intel may well have a dog in the fight as they don’t want ARM replacing “Intel Inside” machines. OnLive has patents, apparently… Sigh. Interestingly, OnLive runs GNU/Linux on their website.

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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19 Responses to Direct Assault on Wintel

  1. Perhaps but I doubt M$’s cash cows will survive the loss of monopoly. In the end-game, the cow has to eat faster but the stomach can only digest stuff at a certain rate. M$ can sue the world or raise prices as the monopoly subsides but that will only hasten its demise. The cash flow will inevitably be reduced. We see that in net revenue decreasing much faster than gross revenue. In the last quarterly report, revenue was down 6% but operating income was down 11% for the client division. This is still in the early stages of the slide. It will get steeper and faster over the next couple of years. The only mystery is how low they will go.

    Trefis and others value M$’s stock as if the divisions were independent instead of a house of cards standing on the OS. That’s a mistake, IMHO. M$ decided the OS was the anchor and it is. For example, a decline in the OS usage will definitely compound itself on the office suite and the server divisions.

  2. Clarence Moon says:

    Next time you’re found, with your chin on the ground

    There a lot to be learned, so look around

    Just what makes that little old ant
    Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant
    Anyone knows an ant, can’t
    Move a rubber tree plant

    But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes
    He’s got high apple pie, in the sky hopes

    Maybe someday Linux will have a bigger following on the desktop, but the more important thing is that Windows continues to generate huge profits for Microsoft. It is entirely possible for both outcomes to exist together.

  3. Clarence Moon wrote, of spending patterns, “I see nothing about to change in the future”.

    True, inertia exists, but we know that if you push long enough on a large mass that’s not stuck, it will move, slowly at first and pick up speed in the new direction. That’s happening. We know NetApplication is heavily biassed to business-use so that other OS has looked good for a long time but now it’s steadily losing share. The only place that other OS is stuck is on retail shelves and if “8” is another Vista, that will change very soon. M$ lost ~10% share from the first Vista. They could lose more the second time. OEMs are now shipping huge lots of GNU/Linux PCs to businesses and governments and it won’t be long before retailers follow. Consumers often have jobs and may well want the software they use at work to be used at home.

    A decade ago most use of GNU/Linux was on individual PCs. That’s changed and change will happen faster now.

  4. Clarence Moon says:

    Having spent it is no reason to spend the next money foolishly.

    At first blush, you might thing that is applicable to the situation at hand, but you have to consider human nature. Microsoft does, I am sure.

    First off, you need to demonstrate that something is foolish. Unless someone is presented with a convincing demonstration that there is a wiser alternative available, the immediate course of action may not look foolish to the buyer. Linux has a poor record of being able to reach out and touch consumers in terms of effective education of alternatives.

    Second, since the buyer likely has a long history of using Windows and has made other purchases that have a dependency on the Windows environment, the overall cost of the change may not be so crystal clear as you frame it. If changing to Linux or OS X requires re-buying or finding alternate applications, the amount of “foolishness” seen in keeping Windows may be overshadowed by the task of switching other applications.

    Third, there is the factor that people often call “self-denial”. To recognize that to continue is foolish is to recognize that the decision to start was foolish, too, and that may be more than someone is willing to admit.

    All in all, I see nothing about to change in the future.

  5. oiaohm wrote, “Cloud you might get higher performance but you are giving up some secuirty “

    It takes a lot of expertise to run e-mail etc. securely. The typical individual or small business is much further ahead to leave the security to the experts providing a cloud service. There is always a risk in making any deal with an outsider so due diligence is required but the cost of that diligence and the service would often be much less than doing it in-house. For example, I have often been in schools that did not have a server running anywhere because no one in the building had any idea what a server was until I arrived. Yet one server is worth dozens of PCs for the great service it can provide like messaging, database, document handling etc. Such folks would benefit hugely from cloud services.

  6. oiaohm says:

    Clarence Moon
    “If you stretch a point and define any computer that can access the internet and is only used that way to be a “thin client”, as Mr. Oiaohm seems wont to do, then it is “thin”, but I don’t think that is what you were originally proposing.”

    Ok you are not getting the terms I will try to describe it better.

    Onlive is thin-client tech. That is because how its working. RDP is thin-client tech again because how it works.

    Where the application runs is the key factor between thin, thick and hybrid.

    thin: applications runs on server.
    thick: applications run on client but provided by server.
    hybrid: applications run on a mixture of both thin and thick.
    full: applications run on the machine it self sourced from the machines own storage your normal desktop applications.

    Yes you can have thick applications because you were storing them on a network share and running them under windows. Yes thick and thin client stuff comes in many forms. Writing them correctly allows you to go if this server crashes we will lose the following way more simply. It also allow you to understand load requirements in your network.

    A proper html 5 application running at least some of the application code client side becomes hybrid client.

    Html 5 in some cases its running fully client side so is a thick client.

    Yes there are thinclients with embed html browsers to framebuffer so can be set to go straight to a website automatically. So yes it would be possible to use onlive from some thin clients even that it might not exactly be wise.

    Its fairly simple to sort when you get the terms right Clarence Moon.

    Robert Pogson
    “We see this same effect over and over. FaceBook and Gmail exist because of it. No one could afford the performance they get from the cloud doing it in-house.”

    This is true but it does not change the secuirty side. Cloud is always performance vs secuirty. Cloud you might get higher performance but you are giving up some secuirty over the control of how your data is stored and handled.

    If you don’t consider the secuirty side when using a cloud service you are very careless.

  7. Clarence Moon, having failed a Maths, wrote, “such is never the case”.

    Such is always the case, Clarence. One earns money and one spends it. Having spent it is no reason to spend the next money foolishly. That one made a mistake in the past is no reason to make another in the future. The present will soon be the past. One can see the value in converting an old/obsolete thick client into a very useful thin client for much less than replacement cost. I’ve done this for years and it works. Anything P3ish and up makes a fine thin client and the user gets the use of a newer/more powerful server for the cost of connection. I can build you a nifty terminal server for $30 per client, much less than the cost of replacing a thick client.

    We see this same effect over and over. FaceBook and Gmail exist because of it. No one could afford the performance they get from the cloud doing it in-house.

  8. Clarence Moon says:

    Typical PC might cost you $500 to buy and last you six years/72 months. $500/72 = $7 per month. Then there is you ISP’s charge…

    That might be an argument starting from scratch, Mr. Pogson, but such is never the case. A consumer typically already has some prior purchase of a computer to consider, such as my own 2 year old netbook. It already has Windows 7 Starter and is able to use RDP to connect to my home workstation. My company laptop can do the same with my office workstation.

    So I only consider the incremental expense involved. That argues against using cloud services on a purely economic basis.

    My existing devices can also access a SaaS environment such as OnLive, but there is no need since both environments already have MS Office 2010 applications installed. My ISP (cable company) is going to charge me the same whether I have a thin or a thick client to use. I don’t know of any “thin” client that would work in that environment anyway. If you stretch a point and define any computer that can access the internet and is only used that way to be a “thin client”, as Mr. Oiaohm seems wont to do, then it is “thin”, but I don’t think that is what you were originally proposing.

    Then, too, there is the practical side of things. Anyone who uses MS Office to the degree that they have to take it with them on the road is not going to be satisfied with using it on some tiny screen or clumsy collection of devices like a docking station with a cell phone. They are accustomed to the large screen and keyboard afforded by a road warrior style laptop and that sort of machine is always equipped with MS Office running locally.

    Casual users are assisted by things like OnLive, but they do not have a need sufficient to motivate them to subscribe to it. They would be better off to just load Open Office for free themselves. Their needs are not critical and they would never purchase MS Office anyway. I think that is why Microsoft is giving away the MS Office Starter edition on new laptops these days.

  9. oiaohm says:

    Robert Pogson I should have been clearer.

    oiaohm wrote, “its a common mistake not to think of remote desktop as thin client tech.”

    Remote desktop is one of the groups of techs that make up thin client techs.

    I am not using remote desktop in the sense of NX or RDP or any other special protocol. Just remote desktop access.

    Clarence Moon
    “I don’t think that this is any instance of “thin client”, at least in the usual sense. I just call it remote desktop access.”

    This is false basically. remote desktop access is always thin client class technologies. Its where it fits into the tree to technologies.

    When you get down to the nuts and bolts of thin clients you don’t even have to provide graphical GUI. Text based remote terminal can be a thin-client. Yes there is a tree of techs that fall under what is thin-client technologies . Remote Text based terminals, Remote desktop Access, Remote Audio,virtual desktop interface…

    There is quite a list of course its simple to forget that thin-client technologies cover a broad range of things.

    Onlive is basically a cloud based thin-client provide.

    Onlive has the classic cloud provide issues of your data not being stored on your own hardware.

    Since I run Linux and Libreoffice it is possible for me to use a 100 dollar panda board to provide libreoffice to Android tablet or Acer Aspire.

    FOSS path I can do fairly close to Onlive costs with my data stored on my own hardware. Panda board eats way less on the power bill than a normal PC. These proto boards are getting more powerful all the time.

    Besides the server running Linux does not surprise me. come to mind as possible tech Onlive might be using.

    Yes it would be possible to use a panda board to wake you PC up when it was required and serve up the remote desktop. So saving on power bill.

    Onlive cloud storage issue to privacy of documents is Onlive biggest issue. A little extra cost to have documents stored on own hardware maybe worth it and at times maybe required to meet legal obligations.

    Onlive does not fit everyone just like cloud never will fit everyone. The big important but is that you don’t have to pay Onlive todo it you business could just use ulteo or equal. There will be a scale where it will be just as cost effective to provide own.

  10. You seem to have lost the context of the discussion, Clarence. If you RDP into your home machine, you still pay a lot more than $5/month to supply that service. Typical PC might cost you $500 to buy and last you six years/72 months. $500/72 = $7 per month. Then there is you ISP’s charge… and your anti-malware and re-re-reboots, etc. The cloud is always the cheapest way to provide such services. That’s why this blog is in the cloud.

  11. Clarence Moon says:


    You seem to have lost the context of the discussion, Mr. Pogson. What I was saying was that thick or thin, I can use RDP to connect to my home machine, so I don’t need the OnLive service at all. As I linked, I can connect an Android tablet device to my home Windows machine via RDP or I can continue to use my Acer netbook. The netbook would be a lot cheaper for me, since I already own it. I would like to try this with my Kindle, too.

    As to the economics of ARM vs x86, I think that it is pretty obvious that a 10.1″ Acer Aspire purchased for $249 on sale locally is a better economic choice than an iPad at twice the price or more that ends up with the same size screen. It is also more likely to be useful than the smaller screens although I have yet to try it.

    The netbook has the extreme advantage of having the keyboard attached as well.

  12. oiaohm wrote, “its a common mistake not to think of remote desktop as thin client tech.”

    Huh? “remote desktop” is not the only thin client technology. Some people run servers as thin clients of some central server. Think HPC. “remote desktop” is also not the same as RDP. I can have a remote desktop just by ssh -Y somepc "x-session-manager" and I have a session on the remote PC reflected on my screen and interacting with my keyboard and mouse. No RDP or M$ involved.

    Similarly NX and other protocols are available to give either command-line or graphical remote sessions.

  13. By a leap of logic, Clarence Moon wrote, “I do not have to pay the $5 per month rental of the OnLive cloud service, so I obtain the beneficial use of the service at zero cost.”

    Nope. A typical desktop PC costs you hundreds of dollars whereas a thin client may cost half as much or less. A typical “Intel” processor can cost $100-$200 and sits there idling so you are paying money for nothing of value. A typical ARM processor or Via chip of the x86 kind may cost $20-$40 and sits there idling all day long but at least it costs less. It’s like the difference between going to the grocery store and buying what you need for the coming few days or buying one of everything in the store. One is useful. The other is just a waste.

    One of the presentations I have made is costing out what is needed in a thin client and a thick client. There is no upside to a thick client except for those needing a local CD drive or for those needing a hot CPU. Browsing the web and playing multimedia does not require much in the way of hardware these days but that is what the vast majority of users of PCs do at home. At work, a lot of people have one or two applications running that could just as well be on a server. For a school that does not have 1:1 student:PC ratio, the number of PCs they can afford is crucial and they can have twice as many thin clients as thick. In a business where nearly every one has a PC, the cost of obtaining those and maintaining them is much less with thin clients than thick. Counting all the costs including licences thin clients with GNU/Linux win handily. QED

    Now, the trolls will jump out from under the bridge and shout that I cannot do this or that with a thin client and I laugh, because I can. I can substitute better performance and lower cost for the things I need and laugh at the poor suckers who pay money for lower performance and things they don’t need. In any organization, I can keep one or more thick clients around for the occasional special purpose while using a bunch of thin clients for my mostly routine work.

  14. Clarence Moon says:

    This is leading to you two fighting here.

    There is hardly any “fighting” going on, Mr.Oiaohm. Your lack of perception is appalling. For one thing, the point under discussion is not in regard to thick/thin clients at all. It is in regard to whether one can connect to one’s home base workstation when one is within wi-fi range of a connection and whether one can play Angry Birds the rest of the time. Or do something equally productive.

    Mr. Pogson seems to be making a sales pitch for the OnLive company, asserting that their ability to run MS Office applications on their “powerful” servers results in superior results to my running the same applications on my home or office machine. My position is that the results are the same from either since I am not able to keep up with either and suffer no compute time delays in either case. But I do not have to pay the $5 per month rental of the OnLive cloud service, so I obtain the beneficial use of the service at zero cost.

  15. oiaohm says:

    Clarence Moon thin and thick client is terms.

    Remote desktop does fall into a thin client provide method. LTSP is a hybred.

    Also Robert Pogson needs to brush up on his terms as well.

    Thick client is like diskless remote boot linux or ipxe. Network booting. No network booting technically not a thick client.

    Thin client machines remote desktop like stuff only.

    Full clients are your PC without using remote desktop services or providing remote services.

    Then you have a hybrid clients. A computer running windows then rdp to access a rdp server is a hybrid client. Also a android tablet access rdp would be a hybrid client. Key thing about hybrid some applications run locally some are provided by remote by thin client methods. Hybrid is also not that clearly defined so a remote boot linux also accessing rdp is hybrid. Why some write Full/Hybrid and Diskless/Hybrid to split the two types.

    I have left out diskless nodes but that is more only used in clusters sometimes diskless remote boot linux.

    Yes warped as it sounds when your home machine is providing rdp to another machine its now a thin client server. Ok the machine on the other end does not have to be a thin client it just has to fall into the case that the min required to access what is being provided is a thin client.

    Yes its a common mistake not to think of remote desktop as thin client tech.

    When you come to describing a computer by correct terms the description can get huge due to all the different roles it is.

    Both of you are mixing up your terms. This is leading to you two fighting here. Information tech language is evil at times. Get your terms wrong have a fight over nothing.

    Yes does not help that wikipedia has crossed fat client over thick client.

  16. Clarence Moon says:

    I don’t think that this is any instance of “thin client”, at least in the usual sense. I just call it remote desktop access.

    However, the performance, whatever you wish to call the architecture, is perfectly adequate for my needs. Using the RDP connection vial my netbook to my desktop at home give me the same performance as I get from my desktop at home. To date I have never been able to type faster than my computer could keep up, so having more power at the source doesn’t buy me anything.

  17. The thin client from a powerful server will be faster than a thick client from your home, most likely.

    This means clients don’t need to be running that other OS which means less money flowing to M$ and more to hardware makers, a good thing. It means M$ is losing share on clients.

  18. Clarence Moon says:

    Well, yipee! It looks like there is one already. All I have to do is figure out how to get my Kindle to use it. There’s a bunch of YouTube articles on running Android apps from Google on the Kindle.

  19. Clarence Moon says:

    I don’t see what all the fuss is about, Mr. Pogson, this is just one more instance of a Software as a Service function being offered to the public at large. There may be some sort of license fracas between OnLive and Microsoft in terms of what is running on their cloud site, but that is something that has to be negotiated in any case.

    From a user’s perspective, it just allows him or her to do a bunch of MS Office stuff on a terminal. Does anyone make a Remote Desktop client for Android or iPad? It seems to me that would be a natural thing that would achieve the same purpose and be guaranteed to be legal since it is a function of your Windows OS. Microsoft already offers a freebie client for the Mac

    I use RDP via my little Win7 netbook on the road to connect back to my home workstation. I used to connect to my office workstation, too, but the IT gestapo put in all sorts of security devices and made it only work from a specific, company supplied laptop, which works fine, but now I need two machines if I want to connect to my home and office both. One would suffice, namely the office one, but we are not allowed to use it for personal stuff and I like my job more than the potential convenience.

    So I take the netbook, too, and use it for the home stuff.

    But in either case, I can use a lesser machine to just act as a viewport to my more powerful desktop, much as the cloud service advertised by OnLive. If I have a wi-fi good enough for OnLive, I would have it for a netbook or laptop, too, so why pay $5 a month to get what you can get from your own home PC?

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