Jolicloud to usher return of thin client

Web ubiquity and emergence of netbooks that ride on maturing cloud platform will push thin clients mainstream, says Tariq Krim, founder of Linux OS maker.

The availability of netbooks that ride on the maturity of cloud infrastructure is heralding the return of the thin client, says Jolicloud founder and CEO, Tariq Krim.

Krim, who earlier founded personalized homepage service Netvibes, told ZDNet Asia the "thin client concept is "more feasible now than ever", and is targeting his new Jolicloud OS squarely at this niche.

Founded in December 2008, Jolicloud is based on the Ubuntu flavor of Linux. Still in private alpha mode, the company raised US$4.2 million in first-round funding in July this year, according to online reports.

Source: Jolicloud

In an e-mail interview, Krim said netbooks, being inexpensive, are more easily replaced. This leads to users demanding ways to preserve their credentials and personalized settings on their OS, so they can change their devices with less hassle.

The cheaper hardware is also opening Web services to more people, echoing the vision of the early thin-client proponents.

The early thin-client wave rose at the turn of the century, but did not gain traction with enterprises that opted for PCs with more computing power and did not need to be connected to a network.

Krim said the availability of cheaper hardware and ubiquitous Web connection, coupled with cloud services that are now mature, are making the thin client concept more plausible than before.

Experience by Web
Jolicloud aims to make the Internet the focal point of the netbook experience by hiding the innerworkings of the OS from the user, he said. "We target people that are not willing to spend any time configuring their netbooks," he explained, adding that Jolicloud's aim is to work "out of the box".

To that end, OS developers are focusing on ensuring software and plug-in compatibility, and making apps more easily available to users from a central directory, Krim noted. The initial list of Jolicloud-compatible devices currently comprises some 10 brands, including Asus, Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo.

Jolicloud is also looking to fill a void in the netbook market, created by the absence of Apple and the community of "Mac users that refuse to use a Windows XP computer", he said.

In order to mimic the experience of using desktop apps, Jolicloud runs the Mozilla's Prism platform to support access Web apps without going through the typical browser route.

The Jolicloud OS also preserves user settings by backing up the list of apps, shared data and login information, under the user's account. This allows users to more easily hop from one machine to another, Krim said.

It appears industry interest in thin clients has been picking up. Last year, Hewlett-Packard and Citrix showcased a thin-client portfolio. The Singapore government, too, has demonstrated a thin-client project as one of the possible deployments for the country's planned next-generation broadband network.