A consequence of convergence?

" Using thin clients instead of conventional PCs would lower energy consumption by 51 percent and reduce CO2 emissions."

Everybody talks about convergence as if it has been, or is likely to become, a real thing. Personally, I've talked about the iphone as a pocket Mac illustrating the convergence of multiple communications functions in one integrated device - and, of course, Apple's TV gadget is intended to link that to the big screen HDTV world.

All great, except that it might be more reasonable to talk about this in terms of divergence: the separation of the PC's entertainment and communication functions from its business functions, and the consequent emergence of more specialised product ranges. In that context the iphone convergences communications, the TV products should morph into more generalised entertainment support - imagine, for example, that Apple buys Nintendo or does a deal to unite its TV controller with Sony's playstation - and the "thin client" takes over the business desktop.

And why the latter? because if you strip away the home PC industry by allocating most of its roles to more focused products that simply do these jobs better and for less, then you ultimately strip away most of the emotional support for viewing the business desktop as "personally empowering."

In reality, of course, the whole business of having a PC "empower" users has been a con pretty much since NT arrived, but it's been sustained by today's Marlboro man, the imaginary teenage wizard making miracles via a PC, and the mass failure to realize that home PC usage is fundamentally different from business PC usage. Strip this cameoflage away by marking the home PC for what it is: the hallmark of the dilletante, and businesses will soon be re-evaluating their commitments to having a dual core, 3.2Ghz, 2GB, machine with a 75 million line OS handling word processing and data entry/retrieval on every desktop.

In the short term the real costs of electrical power coupled with the mythology of global warming can drive this lesson home with the MBAs in charge - because a Sun ray uses 4 Watts where a PC uses 80 to 90.

In fact a PC "thin client" manufacturer out of Germany recently made headlines, at least in Linuxdevices with a paid for study claiming that their products, which use between 12 and 14 watts, can directly reduce the human environmental footprint - in the United States.

Here's part of the writeup:

Using thin clients instead of conventional PCs would lower energy consumption by 51 percent and reduce CO2 emissions, concludes a recent study by the Fraunhofer Institute. The study, whose results were announced today by Igel Technology, compared thin clients manufactured by Igel to conventional business PCs.

Based on Fraunhofer's data (see tables below), Igel suggests -- given an estimated 22.9 million business desktop PCs in operation in the U.S. -- that thin clients could save U.S. businesses around $354.7 million a year, and could cut CO2 emission by about 2.45 billion pounds.

According to Igel's strategic director of worldwide marketing, Stephen Yeo, "The financial savings are significant but the impact on cutting CO2 emissions is what's really impressive. Saving 2.45 billion pounds of CO2 emissions would remove the equivalent impact of 106,521 average U.S. households each year." Adding to this an estimated typical 25 percent TCO (total cost of ownership) savings of a thin client versus a PC, Yeo says, "there can be no doubt that server-based computing is the economic and eco-friendly way forward."

The marketing pitch leverages global warming hysteria to sell a Wintel product but a legitimate case could be made simply on the cost of electrical power - and redoing the numbers for Sun Ray with UltraSPARC would more than double the projected savings.

So why isn't it happening? For all the obvious reasons (and no, software availabiity isn't one of them - you can use Sun Rays with Windows servers) and for one non-obvious one: the delusion that home use relates, for most non technical decision makers, to business use. And if that myth goes away..the iphone, the playstation, and the supersized HDTV could be the best news Sun, and Unix, ever had.

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