• Subject: Re: Thin Clients
  • From: "Roger Pence" <rp@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 18 Sep 1999 17:48:51 -0500

> But Roger, wasn't the that the whole point in the first place?  To come up
> with a replacement for the two-session, four-color twin-ax terminal?

It wasn't the whole point. _Enormous_ PC-replacement claims were made (and
hoisted by lots of industry guru types) about that Network Station in the
summer of 1996. Again, it depends on the definition of thin client, but, as
presented by Dr Frank in July of 96, the thin client was the answer to all
_our_ problems! During one of his evangical rants at Vail at a NEWS/400
seminar, Dr. Frank showed screen shots of a thin client running Lotus's
Windows word processor, Notes, a browser and a green screen.

The folly of that concept, especially for AS/400 audiences, hit the ground
hard when it became clear to even casual bystanders that IBM's thin client
solution to replace PCs (as hoisted early on) required Windows NT in the
background. Two problems: Rochester doesn't want NT anywhere near the AS/400
(hence a lame IPCS card) and, at the time, the IPCS couldn't even run NT
anyway! So much for server consolidation! At this time, Terminal Server was
also wayyy out there and Citrix wasn't quite a commodity product (at the
time, it didn't even run on NT 4.0).

Today, Terminal Server is here (and MS has lowered its licensing costs
some--can you believe that at first MS throught it could continue to charge
NT Workstation license fees to attach to TSE?!) and Citrix's products are
vastly more mature. So, the thin client isn't a stupid idea, it just isn't a
panacea. There aren't silver bullets and there aren't solutions without
tradeoffs. I agree that we could possibly do without PCs, I disagree that we
can do without PC applications. Today, PC applications (both personal
productivity apps such as Word and Excel) and VB-ish client server apps) are
as much a legacy problem as RPG! But accepting that PC apps are a legacy
problem doesn't make them go away. Gotta deal with this stuff realistically.

I'm not a Java naysayer. I believe strongly it's here and we'd all better be
learning it. It's pretty clear that IBM has made such an enormous bet on
Java that at the very least, it _will_ be used to create line-of-business
AS/400 applications. However, I also think it's important for AS/400 shops
to stay grounded in reality. It's looking less and less like some
entrepeneur is gonna write a rational version of Office in Java.

Go back and read what was written about the potential for thin clients in
the fall 1996 - spring 1997 issues of NEWS/400 (Sep 96 is also worth looking
at because it also featured the va-va-voom Viva Las Vegas showgirls ad!
oooo-la-la). Virtually every word written then, extolling the promise of the
thin client concept could be republished today--with the same,
fingers-crossed, just-you-wait tone.

We can't wait! We've all got work to do!


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