‘If you browse, you’re already using an NC’

Nicholas Petreley is editor of online IDG publication NC World and a columnist for Infoworld US, and also writes a column for the Japanese publication NT Japan. Petreley will be giving the keynote speech at Computerworld Expo tomorrow. Ria Keenan sat him down (at his computer) to answer a few questions via email on the eve of his visit.

Nicholas Petreley is editor of online IDG publication NC World and a columnist for Infoworld US, and also writes a column for the Japanese publication NT Japan. Petreley will be giving the keynote speech at Computerworld Expo tomorrow. Ria Keenan sat him down (at his computer) to answer a few questions via email on the eve of his visit.

Why do you say network-centric computing appliances are inevitable?

If people in New Zealand are browsing the Web or getting their company email via the Internet, they’re using network computers. Their NCs are simply at an early stage of Darwinian evolution. For many of these people, the fat OS and local file system will eventually shrivel up and fall off for lack of use.

Why do you say network-centric computing appliances are inevitable?

If people in New Zealand are browsing the Web or getting their company email via the Internet, they’re using network computers. Their NCs are simply at an early stage of Darwinian evolution. For many of these people, the fat OS and local file system will eventually shrivel up and fall off for lack of use.

Why do you distrust technology forecasts made by the likes of Dataquest, IDC, Meta Group, etc?

The simple answer is that some publishing (my field) and market research is terribly blemished by vendor influence, personal bias and the tendency for people to see change as threatening (mainframe people were as threatened by the PC, as PC experts are now threatened by the NC). We only understand that people know right from wrong because we, as humans ourselves, are “in the know” about such things. Even the best and most unblemished market research is like that. It is its business to be “in the know” about what people think about the market and plan to do. But you almost have to throw away that information and observe the market from the outside to predict what people will really do.

And what about total cost of ownership forecasts, why are they so off the mark? Exactly how ill-conceived are they?

Imagine the infrastructure changes required and those that would result from a world where you use a sidewalk kiosk, an airline seatback computer or the TV in your hotel room to answer your email. That TCO can’t be measured by comparing today’s NC versus the PC. Cost of ownership studies are flawed because they tend to predict the future based only on what we know of the present. Microsoft missed the significance of the Internet, as did research groups because they look at the world that way.

What are the core demands imposed by doing business over the Internet (besides hardware and bandwidth)?

The Internet introduced an entirely different set of rules to computing. It turns computing into a wire-centred world, where what protocols you use are more important than what brand of hardware or software you use.

Ransom Love of Caldera is also coming to Computer-world Expo. What are the types of things you’d like to ask him about concerning Caldera’s court case against Microsoft?

1. Does Caldera have a “smoking gun” document that demonstrates Microsoft’s intent to eliminate the DOS market by representing Windows 95 as an OS that is no longer dependent upon DOS?

2. Back in the days of DR-DOS, it seemed common knowledge to us in the InfoWorld test centre that Microsoft was deliberately “manufacturing” fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) to damage its competitors.

Windows worked fine with QEMM but refused to install if it found QEMM, for example. Why is it so hard to fight what should be a simple, open-and-shut case?

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