Thinking Tech

Client service drives the cloudy dreams of a Sunday

Client service drives the cloudy dreams of a Sunday

Posting in Technology

Simpler clients, based on Linux, and clouds will give all the complexity to professionals, along with the headaches. Or will they?

Once again Friday I lost a day of work to PC trouble.

Some time that morning, while writing an item for this blog, my anti-viral alerted me, three times, to the entry of a virus. I wasn't using e-mail. It was just coming in, and it was bringing friends. (Picture by John Blankenhorn.)

Delete, delete, delete, I ordered. Would you like to add some more security software? Yes, uh NO! That pop-up wasn't from my anti-viral. I scrambled to shut down my work but it was too late. You can't turn off a PC like you would a TV, not if you want to save your work and a normal start-up later.

Running a PC these days means having a ton of software, in memory, at the ready. Not just anti-virals, but anti-spyware programs, utilities to clean your registry if malware attacks, and quick start-ups for a host of other stuff Microsoft or its ecosystem insist you have.

Got kids? Multiply that load by the number of PCs in your house. We've got seven, for four people. Oh, and a network to manage as well.

As I sat later in a coffee shop, waiting for my netbook to load its stuff while my desktop sat at home running a thorough virus scan, I thought there has to be a better way.

There is. Or there are. Simpler clients, based on Linux, and clouds will give all the complexity to professionals, along with the headaches.

Or will they?

Google leads in driving this vision. Unfortunately as of now it's just that, a vision. (Picture by Ed Glantz, a computing professor at Penn State and author of the blog Wicked IS.)

Google is just starting to sell Linux clients, starting with Android phones but extending soon to Chrome OS-based netbooks and laptops.  The cloud services it charges for are business services, a toolset with which enterprises can created hosted applications.

There are cloud services you can get. You can get desktop applications from Zoho, you can buy backup services from Carbonite. Google offers a lot of client services free for the price of future advertising – e-mail, desktop utilities, the Google Reader for RSS feeds. But we're far from a total solution here.

And then there's the problem of distribution.

Microsoft has solved this problem. Last year I reviewed some interesting Linux netbooks. I traveled to Taiwan in June to see more. There was no more to see. All the OEMs had switched to Windows. I asked about this at a press conference (right), and got a verbal shrug. We would love an alternative, I was told, but there is a price lower than free.

There is, indeed, a price lower than free. Successful vendors give their channels advertising, in-store collateral, and software support needed to get a product into the home. Since you don't pay for a Linux distro like Ubuntu, that company has no money to support a channel.

You no doubt guessed my personal story has a happy ending. The netbook finally booted, half a cup of coffee later. After running anti-virals overnight, I finally just did a system restore on my desktop, taking it back a week in time. It's happy again.

But I'm not. There has to be a better way. Is it the cloud? More on that next week.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure