PCs is the potential competitor of the NCs. The diffusion rate for PC at the office is rapidly increasing but remains low at home. PCs are more complex and thus can do complex tasks. Technological breakthroughs have allowed recent PCs to become more user friendly than in the past, but for most beginners, the PC remains difficult to operate.
There are some advantages the NCs have over PCs. First NCs are simple and relatively easy to operate. The second advantage is that the NCs provide the same applications as the PC. For example it offers applications for a wide range of users in business, educational institutions, consumers and developing countries as well as an access point to the Internet/World Wide Web. If we were to compare a NC with PC, a NC would be a network terminal but with fewer functions. The third advantage is cost. Purchasing and maintenance costs for a NC are likely to be lower than that of a PC. Due to the above advantages, I believe NC will be more popular than PC.
Believing in its market potential, Oracle, Apple Computer, IBM, Netscape and Sun Microsystems set up a standard guideline for NC called the "NC Reference Profile." In addition to this guideline, Oracle independently announced "Oracle NC System Software Suit" and formed Network Computer Inc. to speed up the development of NC applications and server software. Sun Microsystems also announced a Java Station based on the NC Reference Profile.
In Japan, Bandai, Japan Computer Corp., Sega and Hitachi have entered the market by introducing Internet TV adapters which have a World Wide Web browser function. The Internet TV adapter is connected to the television which functions as a monitor. Attached to the adapter is a controller similar to those on a Nintendo which helps you browse through the WWW. Other companies such as Sharp, Mitsubishi Electronics and Sanyo introduced TVs capable of accessing the Internet.
These new devices will significantly affect our lifestyle and thus the remainder of this papers explores the development of the Network Computers and its viability in the future.
The Internet TV, which is sold in the Japanese market does not follow a specific standard, and cannot download applications from a server. However, the Internet TV posses many characteristics of a NC. Although there are some differences, in this paper the Internet TV is considered a NC.
There are potential uses of the NC at the office. NC can perform simple tasks such as working with databases, word processing, spreadsheets while accessing the web and e-mailing. Oracle's market research estimates that in the future the NC may replace up 50 to 70 percent of all the PCs in the office. This is because NCs will be capable for office work. Office NCs will be equipped with larger monitors and more memory than a typical home model. These NCs will cost less than a PC because NCs in the office can be integrated into Internet on existing LANs allowing the coexistence of conventional PCs and NCs on the same network.
In addition, we have to consider about educational institutions. In schools, acquisition costs present the most difficult hurdle to realizing the dream of placing a computer on every student's desk. Many schools are attempting to recycle old PCs for student use, but are hampered by problems of inconsistency, software compatibility, ongoing support, and administrative overhead. Imagine the educational system if every student had a low-cost NC supported by a vast server network. Students and teachers would have access to on-line research and textbooks, up-to-date news information, the Web, and e-mail. The development of more cost-effective wireless transmission methods for feeding the NC to a whole classroom creates all of these extraordinary and exciting possibilities.
This difference in perceptive has enormous ramifications. NC greatly simplify the desktop and as consequence significantly reduce the cost and complexity of ownership. As a result, NC will be much easier to organize and maintain, and upgrades will be less costly.
Simplification will come from many directions. Hardware configurations can be as simple as those required to run a basic web browser. A low-end NC can consist of a web browser, a network connection, some memory. Higher end NC might have a built-in display screen, CD-ROM, hard disk, wound capabilities and most of the other functions in todays PC. Using NC will be simple because they will not have to have tremendously complex range of functionality compared to todays PC. This is because the bulk of application deployment and processing will be performed on the server.
Hardware set up will be simplified because of the NC design and mission of the NC. The simpler the mission the easier it is to design and manufacture separate-box solutions. The more open-ended, the solution, the more difficult it is to correctly configure and set up the machine.
Operating systems can also be greatly simplified. Gone will be the days when customers are required to spend an endless amount of time learning about OS. Issues such as initial configuration, tuning, debugging, and endless software installations will become a thing of the past. Customers will not have to call up vendor help desks and be put on hold or put up with busy signals as they try to fix application and hardware conflict problems. Phone calls will not be necessary because there will be no applications that need to be fixed or hardware switches to be set. NC will retrieve applications, content, and services from Internet.
Replacing the operating system will be a Java-like environment. Major new capabilities can be fed to NC via Java applets. Applets, like all Internet applications, are installed, maintained, and upgraded in one location, on the server, but they execute on the desktop NC. NC gain additional functionality not by adding new hardware and installing new software, but by accessing new services on the Internet.
Easy to use
- They must be connected easily to networks with no hassles about protocol.
- Users can operate any applications in conjunction with others without considering obstacles such as differences in OS, configurations and software versions.
- Anyone can operate a NC without reading a long detailed instructions book.
Low initial costs
The initial costs of purchasing and installing NCs must be considerably cheaper than the PC.
Low running cost
The running cost of running NCs on a network must be cheaper than PCs. Also Users can use new versions of application without buying an upgrade version.
Server support through network
- Each server must provide various applications in order to fulfill the requirements of each user. The introduction of JAVA made this possible because JAVA does not really on any computer environment when developing such applications.
- Server must provide an E-mail system.
- Response speed must be fast. This should be much faster than current systems because users will have to download the applications such as word processing programs and spread sheet programs from the server.
- Help desk provides help whenever needed.
The reasons why the Japanese people have these weakness are because there are some obstacles to use computers. The Japanese alphabet is much more complex than the English alphabet. This is because there are lots of characters such as Kanji ( Chinese characters ), Hiragana and Katakana. There are over 3,000 characters in the Japanese alphabet. So inputting Japanese using an English keyboard is very sophisticated and cumbersome. First the individual has to learn how to type with the English keyboard. Then the individual has to learn how to use the program which converts English letters into Hiragana. Then, the individual has to use another program to convert the Hiragana into Kanji (Kanji henkan program). This very tedious task deters the Japanese from using computers. Therefore it must be easy to type Japanese into NC.
The second obstacle is the high telephone costs. In Japan it costs about 10 cents per minute for a local call. Japanese people are aware that communication costs are more expensive than most countries but since there is only one company which provides local call service, there are no competitive forces to drive down the telephone costs. However the increase in the number of users may pressure the company to lower its prices.
If NC satisfies the critical success factors described above, a new market like the Japanese Nintendo game market should develop. As the number of NC users increase, electronic commerce will become common making it more convenient for the user, thus changing the Japanese lifestyle.
2. What are the technology issues surrounding the implementation of a NC
type of technology?
NC application development, especially, operation systems are important issues because those who are not familiar with computers and networks will be using the NC. When development of NCs should consider those users.
3. What are the other alternative technologies to the NC?
NC will not likely replace the PC, but the PC may replace the NC because installation costs of PC are likely to decrease in the near future. If the NC does not withstand the competition of the PC, then we will have to stick with our PCs.