Wednesday, December 12, 2007

this tipping point: free, lean, fast, connected

There are many tipping points in the history of computing and the history of the world. History and progress proceeds through the tipping points. Arguments about futures are arguments about tipping points.

It starts with an individual and then sometimes proceeds to a mass movement. Often its not about a single innovation but a synergy or packaging together of a variety of innovations. It's also about connecting technical innovations with real human development, not artificial, market driven human "needs".

Examples from the history of computing:
  • Doug Engelbart and human-computer symbiosis
  • Alan Kay and the dynabook
  • Seymour Papert and constructionism
  • Richard Stallman and free software
  • Linus Torvalds and Linux
  • Tim Berners Lee and the world wide web
  • Mark Shuttleworth and Ubuntu
  • Nicholas Negroponte and the OLPC
Sorry for the ones I missed

Linux is about to take over the low end of PCs

This article argues that we are at a new tipping point which consists of a synergy of these four trends which have been growing for some time now: free, lean, fast, connected
Sometimes, several unrelated changes come to a head at the same time, with a result no one could have predicted. The PC market is at such a tipping point right now and the result will be millions of Linux-powered PCs in users' hands ...

Four trends: user-friendly Linux desktops, useful under-$500 laptops and desktops, near-universal broadband, and business-ready Internet office applications. Put them together and you have a revolution ...

Here's the business case. You tell me if it's not compelling. You can buy 100 $500 PCs running a free version of Linux, hook them to a high-speed Internet connection for a $1,000 a year and use GAPE at $50 per user account per year. Finally, we'll throw in a grand for a Linux server. That's $57,000 for your equipment, your connectivity, your operating system and your applications.

Now, let's say you want to run Vista Business. First, you'll need 100 PCs that can run it. The cheapest deal I can find today for machines I'd consider adequate for Vista Business, which is to say they must have at least 2GB of RAM, is for the Dell OptiPlex 320 at $707 a PC. Of course -- unlike with Linux, which always includes an office suite, OpenOffice -- for those times when the Internet is down, you'll need to buy an office suite. If you went with Microsoft Standard 2007, with a little shopping you can get it for the upgrade price of about $200 per copy. So, on the PC side alone, we're looking at $90,700.

In response to: I need more laptops by Graham Wegner

Asus is marketing their EEE directly to British schools:
The RM Asus miniBook is the perfect choice for pupils; a genuine "anywhere, anytime access" device at a startlingly low price. Smaller than an A5 pad and weighing less than 1kg, it combines the portability and quick-start of a PDA with the capabilities of a notebook. Starting from only £169, the RM Asus miniBook is an exciting new category of device, set to fundamentally change ICT provision for pupils.


Tom Hoffman said...

I think tipping point implies a quicker change than it'll really be. We're looking at the beginning of the loooong slooow decline of Windows.

Bill Kerr said...

hi tom,

I looked it up and you are correct about the meaning of tipping point. The Tipping Point is the name of a book by Malcolm Gladwell.

"The book contends that ideas, behaviors, messages, and products spread through society similar to disease, and that societal changes are like epidemics: a tiny force can cause enormous shifts. The “tipping point” is the moment in an epidemic when a virus reaches “critical mass.”
- dictionary of sustainable management

So, what I am really talking about is the status of various contradictions or thin edges of wedges. Nevertheless, the history and synergies of the four trends identified in the desktop linux article are fascinating.

Some of the items on my list from earlier in the article are definitely not tipping points but have created essential creativity spaces or niches for thinking minorities.

nicolas cellier said...

Donald Knuth maybe.
Cite whatever revolution you want, mark up language for example.