Networking

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Getting thinner fast

Wi-fi speeds up shift to thinner clients…

Written on the London-Ipswich train and sent via a wi-fi signal picked up at the bottom of a field in a remote part of Suffolk, UK.

During the past 15 years I have seen one generation of laptop after another get faster and more expansive with a consequential loss of facilities that just seems to go unnoticed.

First it was the floppy drive, then the IrDA port, quickly followed by PCMCIA slot. More recently my dial-up modem went missing and I didn't even notice it had gone.

What next? Well it looks like a whole slew of ports and facilities are about to go, but unlike their long gone predecessors there is a bit of a fanfare highlighting the arrival of the wireless age.

So when my new machine does arrive it will also lack wired LAN and FireWire ports - and, most dramatic of all, no CD/DVD drive.

Wireless from A to Z

Click on the links below to find out more…

A is for Antivirus
B is for Bluetooth
C is for The Cloud
D is for dotMobi
E is for Email
F is for FMC
G is for GPS
H is for HSDPA
I is for i-mode
J is for Japan Air
K is for Korea
L is for LBS
M is for M2M
N is for NFC
O is for Operating systems
P is for Pubs
Q is for QoS
R is for Roaming
S is for Satellite
T is for TV
U is for UMTS
V is for Virgin
W is for WiMax
X is for XDA
Y is for Yucca
Z is for Zigbee

So the external ports only comprise: power, audio-out, USB and DVI. The only means of online communication is wi-fi but this comes with a reduction in the amount of hardware, longer battery life, much lighter weight and a slimmer profile.

Other innovations include a wider trackpad with a slew of new interface innovations and the offer of an optional solid-state replacement to the ubiquitous hard drive.

For some reason this all feels a bit like a giant step. Yet I no longer own a floppy disk or a PCMCIA card and I no longer go online using a mobile phone via IrDA or indeed a dial-up modem. It also turns out that using a wired LAN connection is also a rare event in my life.

So it seems I may really be ready for this new, wi-fi only, wireless world. But wait. Can I really manage without a CD/DVD drive? Well, my USB memory stick is a 16GB unit and I will shortly be upgrading to 32GB or possibly 64GB.

But what about software installs, I hear you say. Well, wi-fi will do it, as will a USB stick. So it looks like it is a very viable proposition and an obvious manifestation of the broadband wireless world.

On a wider front we actually look to be well on the way to a thinner client world where the portable device doesn't descend to the utility of its 1970s and 1980s predecessor, the technologically skinny VDU.

Most likely we will retain some substantial processing power and memory but increasingly rely on near and distant servers to provide transient content, as well as connections to additional processing power.

Even today I find myself increasingly content with knowing where I can get visual material, such as pictures and movies, online as opposed to having them stored on my laptop. But the limit is always the availability of wi-fi and the speed of the broadband connection.

The prospect of this new thinner client mobile world will thus be coloured almost entirely by bandwidth but it will be on a national scale.

As with web 2.0, some countries will be frozen out of the thinner mobile revolution by the lack of broadband capacity.

In the next phase it will be the applications that will also be remote and demanding symmetrical bandwidth, along with the creation and distribution of content.

All of this is timely, needed and obvious. But it just seems to be arriving faster than I expected.

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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