The state of the network computer

November 23, 2007

Remember the Network Computer? This was an idea that Oracle pushed 10 years ago, that never caught on, to have diskless computers run off a central server.

The latest trend toward online file storage and online office suites suggest that the network computer is really here. I recently had to travel to a country where I was not able to take my laptop, and I really appreciated having online files at my fingertips.

Unfortunately, the quality of the office suites is quite poor. Google spreadsheets is nearing usability, but the word processor is still a long way away from functional.

Microsoft has gotten into the game with Office Live, which will at least give functionality close to what is available in the normal Office suite, but the quality of their web-based email packages don’t inspire confidence. I think the time has long past when Microsoft hired the best and the brightest. The fact that Google does hire the best and the brightest, and still falls short of the mark in office suite development suggests that the requisite development is quite challenging.

The developer behind Hotmail has jumped into the fray with Live Documents. Here’s an article from the London Times that gives some background, and here’s a year-old article from Ars.

Believe it when you see it, I guess.

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