The Network Computer was a bad idea born in the middle of the ’90, and ended up to be completly wrong. Anyway, the current software tecnologhy (like AJAX, Google Gears, the psedo-new-ms-windows os called midori) can be helpuful to sketch a new idea of operating system.
The network computer fails because it pretends to store all information (program, user data) on the server. Worst, it pretends a fee for application usage. But users preferred a buy-one model, because they didn’t like the renting model
In the NC world the Software company will also hold all you private documents, a very security concerns.
And the software company must guarantee also nobody will look your important market strategy stored on a corel draw excel. This things costs too much.
Even Apple is trying to remove DRM from Apple Store, selling some titles without it. The reason is simple: apple needs to upgrade its copy protection scheme, for avoiding some hacker will be able to crak it. But this costs too much!
Let’s see what we can think now, after 10 years, a bunch of iPhone/EEPC out of there and Open Source full of life…
Imagine a new business model in which every person has its computer (for instance a Laptop, an Eeepc or a iPhone).
This device has already GB of RAM on it. And also this device has a decent http connection.
It will not have soon a huge data transfer, but for an ordinary ajax application this is enough
Users connects themself to software house, and download free of charge the software. Most of the software is open source, and runs in a browser also in offline mode (look at Google Gears for an example).
When users want an additional service (like ubiquitous anti spam for every application, or real-time trading), they connect to the network and pay a small fee for the service. The fee is monthly or year based, and covers usage costs.
Because software is open source, it will probably use open standards. This will simplify the development of useful plugins. these plugins will run on more then one software, because they will look “poor” and “not worth to buy” if they will work only on one specific software.
Because users can download software free-of-charge, they will be encouraged to try plugins (they will have more money on they pockets).
Video games can be an hybrid market: like World of WarCraft teach us, they will be paid for using them (an initial fee of 20 or 30 euros’d be enough), then a small subscription fee will give access to the online gaming experience.
Information are kept on the user computers, so there are no big privacy risk; in Europe privacy laws can lead a company to huge investments.
This is a sunday-morning idea, very similar to the ideas you can find on Wired. So it can be only a crazy-blogger idea but… it can be a feasible business too.