How many decades ago did the client-server revolution start? You must remember it. Like all bungled revolutions it was started from the top. As any astute student of history knows, revolutions are not launched by the huddled masses; they are kindled over many years by pamphleteers and report writers. I seem to remember client-server was the tumult that heralded the demise of the PC as the saviour of the enterprise. It was followed closely by the return to centralised computing, foretold in many a report and corporate presentation. It even spawned some magazines launched by opportunistic publishers - all of them, of course, sententious rubbish.
If December and January's sales figures are anything to go by, the smartest people on the planet at present are the consumers who have been responsible for the largest dip in retail sales of the PC ever. But in the corporate world the PC continues to rule supreme and the all-pervasive Windows software has now percolated down to the palmtop devices which are moving on from the status of executive toys. And there's the rub.
We keep hearing, usually from the same people who proclaim from the rostrum that the end of the PC is nigh, that the information superhighway is first and foremost dependent on information. And they are right.
But the integration of varying types of computers and information still depends, thank heaven, on whether the human on the end of its advanced interface likes the end result. And having been handed the power of a PC on the desktop, the humble user is just not going to give it up. So the recent dip in sales of PCs can only be temporary. Users, corporate or not, will find some way of desperately holding on to their PCs or find an alternative that is just as good and just as expensive to use. Forget cost of use - not even Robin Bloor can calculate that.
For many years, particularly among bright young sales teams or status-hungry executives, the PC substitute you simply had to have was the laptop. With the advent of the colour palmtop my prediction is that the handheld market is going to be the next big growth area.
The palmtop is an interesting case of a technology which has made its own market. That trusty old UK company Psion blazed the trail with its innovative handheld machines but seems to have hugely underestimated the combined might of Microsoft and Hewlett Packard when they spot a new niche.
The Psion's black and white screen is fine if you're a doctor bent on finding out medical facts, but HP seems to have hit the nail on the head with its colour machine that embodies what every user would kill for - an executive toy you can use to play games on as well. You can even connect to the Net and waste even more of your employer's time. And you're unwittingly part of the client-server revolution. What more could anyone possibly want?
News came this week that a scientist in the US has developed a process which allows mobile phones and laptops to run on a mixture of air and alcohol. It could never have happened in the UK. No one would seriously consider such an abuse of alcohol. And no one in the channel would sell it.
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