What else can a PC client do?

What do you really need on a new client? And hasn't the whole idea of a client been blown-up lately, with devices like the iPod, the cell phone, and Microsoft's own XBox now replacing what the PC could have and would have done?

One of the most common bits of open source kant is "no commodity margins."

This was a sub-text in yesterday's item about Ingres. Money coming in must be matched with new functions coming out or else it's not worth it.

On learning that Microsoft Vista will be delayed a few months, my natural inclination was to ask "Is this an opportunity for open source?" But maybe that was the wrong question.

The real question is, "should I care?" What is there about Vista that is really different, that would make me want to junk, say, a Windows XP machine?

Back in the 20th century the answer to this question would usually be obvious. You needed the new Windows (and new hardware) for multimedia, or because the new version really worked, or because it was more secure, or because the user interface had been tweaked.

The big whoop this time is Windows Presentation Foundation, a new graphics subsystem. But if I really care about graphics, shouldn't I just buy an old Mac? Microsoft is claiming this will make for the development of higher-resolution graphics (with higher resolution sound) but even assuming this is true shouldn't I wait until a "gotta-have-it" application with these features emerges?

Meanwhile, what can open source do? Well, there's Ogre3D, there's OpenGL, there's most of SGI's old stuff. True, WPF will in time address a wider market. But how much wider? And what kind of market?

Nearly a decade ago, when the Pentium II came up, and I watched then-Intel CEO Andy Grove performing at an E3 show, hoping to get his chips inside game consoles, I first began asking what this new functionality was good for. The result of that was a novel called The Time Mirror, in which I imagined a peripheral that let you look back in time using the PC screen.

Short of that, however, what do you really need on a new client? And hasn't the whole idea of a client been blown-up lately, with devices like the iPod, the cell phone, and Microsoft's own XBox now replacing what the PC could have and would have done?

And if you don't need a new PC, or the new Vista, why not just get an old laptop and run desktop Linux on it?

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