In 1984, John Gage of Sun coined the phrase "The Network is the Computer" to describe the emerging world of distributed computing, dismissed at the time by the computer industry, this phrase came to symbolize the explosion of network-based computer services as the Internet became increasingly available. See Wikipedia
Since 1984 computer communications have “exploded” and much of the western world can be found on-line. Back in 1984 we mostly had terminals and mainframes . Today we still have mainframes – many give all their power to one person, are far more powerful than they were back then and often go by the name of PC. OK, this is stretching the truth but the laptop I am using is running Vista with Office 2007 – this has 2Gb of RAM and a dual core CPU and runs at the same speed as any windows computer I have used over the last 10 years. I wonder what the next version of Windows (Windows 7) will need to run.
However, there are some interesting developments coming through over the next 6 months and strangely many are built to Microsoft’s Umpc (Ultra Mobile PC) specification but some don’t run windows at all. These devices are relatively cheap (£300 or much less) and don’t have a lot of processing power but will be ideal to access the Web.
In combination with Web 2 applications and pervasive Internet broadband access these Umpc devices may represent the thin end of the wedge to shift computing to the network.
Have a look at some of these recent announcements of Umpcs in the pipeline for August/Xmas
Asus are due to sell their Eee 701 Umpc (ultra mobile PC) for £199 this will ship with Linux though but will give web access. Ironically this is the first Umpc to fall within Microsoft’s UMPC price target of £360. It has a 7in screen, full keyboard, 802.11bg, 900Mhz Pentium M and uses flash memory instead of a hard drive but at £199 you only get 4Gb - still 2Gb memory sticks are relatively cheap and you can of course use web storage.
Samwell (UMPC 657)
Similar systems have been announced from FIC (iDOTCE260), Aigo, Samsung and Amtek.
Another interesting device is the Datawind Pocket surfer 2 this is a small PDA style unit (175mm x 75mm x 15mm) - it costs around £175 with GPS infirmation and wireless WAN access included and claims to be able to show all web features including flash video. The standard price only gives 20Mb a month but "unlimited" acess can be added for just £6 a month. Not sure how this would opeate in practice as it only operates over slow GPRS but everything is compressed. The unit could be interesting for web 2 pilot projects.