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September 2012

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Is the Era of the Business Desktop Computer Ending?

by Glen Emerson Morris
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There are signs the business desktop computer, mainstay of the advertising industry for close to three decades, is becoming an endangered species. Apple doesn't want to make business computers anymore, Microsoft isn't sure how to and the Linux community only dreams of market share. In addition, there's the constant corrosive effect of the cloud. The bottom line is that the desktop computer is in the process of being morphing into something else, and that something else may not be as useful to the business community.

Apple giving up on the business community
Tech magazines ranging from MIT's Technology Review to Ars Technica are bemoaning Apple's abandonment of the power user/business user, and a marked drop in quality of Apple Mac OS hardware and software. We tried Mac Lion but until 10.7.4 it was too buggy to be used at all, and even now do not believe Mac Lion, or Mountain Lion, is stable enough, or bug free enough, to be used in a production environment. Apple is making too much money to care.

Microsoft gambles on its tablet interface
Microsoft is trying to reinvent itself as a tech leader by releasing a version of Windows 8 designed to support Microsoft's tablet venture. Never noted for the ease of use of its operating system is betting people want a desktop that behaves more like a tablet. Many are not sure this is a good idea.

Linux offers few applications
Over the past two years we explored a number of open source alternatives to the usual Mac and Windows hardware and software our industry uses, with mixed results. In general, Linux proved an adequate replacement for the Mac and Windows operating systems. The problem came with the software. OpenOffice proved to be a reasonable alternative to Microsoft's Office suite.

However, the open source graphics programs fell far short. Gimp, the open source contender for Photoshop, is adequate for consumers, but it lacks the precision Photoshop offers, especially in areas like drop shadow. This is one of the core capabilities of Photoshop, adding depth to pages. Gimp offers drop shadow effects, but not as many, and they're not as good.

The Involuntary Cloud
One of the biggest problems with using a cloud service is that it gives another company control over your data, your applications, even your network.

This was most recently made clear by Cisco's new anti-porn
Purchasers of new Cisco routers found that they were involuntarily enrolled in Cisco's cloud system (and couldn't administer their routers without going through it), and that Cisco reserved the right to block usage of their routers for among other things, pornographic purposes, and would.

The move was a legal response on Cisco's part to a shakedown racket that's targeting pornographic movie copyright violations. A legal team has been using the courts to get ISPs to provide large lists of user names and addresses of potential porno copyright infringers. The tactic allows the porno lawyers to initiate thousands of legal actions with the burden of only having to pay to file one case.

The legal team then sends everyone on the list a demand for several thousand dollars to settle the lawsuits they threaten. A significant number of people are willing to pay rather than go through what could prove to be very embarrassing accusations, expensive to defend against, even for the innocent. Since judges are starting to get wise to this racket, and have begun requiring a separate filing fee for each defendant, ending the fishing era tactics. Cisco is afraid the next group the porno lawyers will target will be network hardware and service providers.

It's probably not realistic to expect that to happen, but from Cisco's position, it's better to be safe than sorry. From the perspective of the SMB user of Cisco products, Cisco's actions are totally outrageous and absolutely unacceptable. That Cisco should be able to monitor the content of a company's server is bad enough, but for them to block totally legal content simply because they do not approve of it is a betrayal of both their customers, and the democratic values this country represents. If Cisco can get away with this now, what will life be like in a world where most businesses use cloud services?

The Cisco case really gets to the control issue at the heart of the client/server, or desktop/cloud. The cloud is simply the latest attempt to return to an earlier and less democratic model.

In the beginning, using a computer at work meant using a dumb terminal, or tube, that was plugged in to a mainframe. The mainframe was run by a cult like group of people who had absolute control over what users could do with their access to the mainframe. The desktop computer took off in the corporate and SMB worlds because it allowed users the ability to control their own computers. The success of the desktop personal computer cost the world's IT departments a lot of control, prestige, influence and, most of all, budget, and IT departments have been trying to get it back ever since.

The cloud is simply the latest phase of the war. The main objective of the cloud strategy is to get you to pay someone else, on a regular basis, forever, to do something you can do yourself. In the process it helps to forget that you will lose control of your data, applications, even business services, but most of all, the ability to maximize profit.

The fundamental and most desired quality of a desktop computer should be that it's a wealth generating asset, not a debt generating liability (aka something you owe monthly payments on).

In the future the most critical aspect to desktop computer systems will not be the performance specs and application features, but the licensing conditions. We recommend the following.

SMB Biz Computer Requirements:
  • Operating system and applications should be owned, not licensed
  • Unrestricted right for Owner to install and run any chosen software or content
  • Does not require authentication from a developer's server after first install
  • Does not allow third party monitoring or control of computer
  • Does not automatically update without owner's permission<
The current hardware and software licensing conditions are reducing many in the business community from business owners to the equivalent high technology sharecroppers. We can't allow this to continue.

Glen Emerson Morris was a senior QA Consultant for SAP working on a new product to help automate compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley law, an attempt to make large corporations at least somewhat accountable to stockholders and the law. He has worked as a technology consultant for Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius.

Copyright 1994 - 2011 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved ' keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing. For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.

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