From: Gordon Bell
Sent: Monday, June 09, 1997 11:50 AM
Subject: Save the World From PCs.... Join the JERCIs (Java
Environment for Re-engineering the Computer
An article I wrote six months ago...to be published in Net_Worker
Magazine sometime soon.
Save the World From PCs
I attended a JERCI (Java Environment for Re-engineering the Computer
follower prayer meeting. Our mission is to save the world from
costly to maintain distributed PCs (and by inference, costly to
expensive workstations), and to replace them with our own
servers and network
computers that host various Java environments.
Network computers will never fail because they are connected to all
always-up, never-busy, servers through an always up and never congested
network. The client (a.k.a. "network computer") never fails because it
maintains no programs or files. All the client programs and files are
maintained by batteries of servers. The by-product is to render the
hundred million PCs obsolete so they can be replaced.
JERCIs believe in market-determined, open, de facto standards. Our
pioneered the open-standard concept with the VendorIX UNIX dialects, and
now do it again with their Java environments. De facto standards allow
products to simultaneously be open, compatible, and yet differentiated
lock in customers and maintain higher hardware margins.
JERCIs believe that Java is not just another programming language, but
first almost universal programming environment to operate on telephones,
television sets, network computers, and existing PCs, workstations,
downsizing servers and mainframes. The basis for our vision is that
computers have no legacy. We say they have a tremendous advantage over
thousands of varieties of PCs that connect to a thousand printer types,
along with as many configurations for modems and networks, mass store,
graphics, audio, etc. that run several hundred thousand different apps.
Since they are just being introduced, each network computer has
options and the hardware is thus simpler and trivial to maintain. PCs
to be lobotomized (have their disks removed) so as to run only our JAVA
Environments, albeit slowly for awhile until software and networks
The prayers of Brothers Gil, Larry, Lou, Mark, and Scott provided
insight for followers. Brothers lose a lot if followers continue to
accelerate their use of PCs.
Gil prayed that the NC would somehow ingratiate him because his was new
low cost. It would provide an image that he knew about the Internet, the
Web, servers, and where he was going.
Larry prayed the longest and loudest, describing how his Network
was conceived to save America's educational system by taking an ordinary
and removing its hard disk and floppy. Just before he had told how the
was conceived to satisfy just two archetypal users: him (corporate user)
his mother (naive user). In the process it will bring computers to the
Larry's NC is connected through an Ethernet to Oracle's new operating
system, NOS (a.k.a. Larry OS Technology), his UNIX dialect. Mom is
via a POTS line to an ISP running LOST. As he went on, the disk slowly
reappeared, along with the hardware cost savings. But since the disk was
only a cache, holding no permanent programs or data, it could cause no
or present a maintenance problem. Users could use slightly more complex,
portable NCs without a network, because once reconnected all the data
fully resynched with his new server.
It was a wonderful story because a LOST/PC should be able to support 200
users, while its clients searched the web, did email, used his new word
processors and spreadsheets, made videophone calls, and interacted with
multimedia objects. It also runs new educational software that he and
Milliken are funding. One follower had already ordered 10,000. I was
by the vision, having recalled his last vision of the massively parallel
NCube computers to revolutionize databases and warehouses, and then a
later the video server.
Brother Lou had the clearest picture because he knows that his followers
fifty years easily get lost, unless he shows them the way. His NC would
serve the faithful who needed a vision to tell their bosses. They've
of a new land called Cyberspace. Unfortunately they are stuck with
"industries standard" platforms (AIX, AS400, OS/2, and 3090), nets
and Token rings), and terminals (3270 and 5280 AKA VT100). His NC also
JAVA -- clearly showing that he knows the way to Cyberspace.
By building an NC, Lou's followers are saved from buying PCs that run
those apps, including the new ones for multimedia. His followers must be
shielded from modern data types, distributed computing, etc. -- and the
flock continues to wander with him in a well-controlled fashion. But
all, followers relate to the message. Now they again get back to
centralization and have the critical control of: servers, networks,
and ALL the user apps... just like the good old days.
Mark's vision followed by describing what market-driven open standards
what it's all about. He's providing a new environment based on Java to
to be able to obsolete, recreate and run a whole cadre of
new word processors, spreadsheets, and mail programs. We can license
his environment. The vision was to follow his open standard because he
browser market share.
And then Scott spoke and we all listened, because he has shown us "the
way" by removing some of the C++ uglies. Now the world can return to
centralized, server-based, timeshared computers, a way of computing he
disavowed when he started a company to sell workstations. He assured us
his Javastation would have no disk. Users are relieved of having to
about their programs and data because the server owner takes care of
Apps are only limited by the pipes and servers that feed them. We no
need to worry about improvements in user interfaces or any changes that
require modifying the platforms. We can start all over again and create
completely new world of word processors, spreadsheets, mail, higher
apps, and everything else a client needs. This time we will do it right.
Scott is so convinced of the way, that he eliminated the use of
within his company. He said new, simple office suites in Java will soon
available to replace the PC ones with all their features, because all
need is "cut" and "paste." Control is a key virtue of centralized
distribution. If you do it right, then the cost of ownership is
less than those pesky PCs that users run any old software. He is able to
quote really big cost savings by simply ignoring the cost of maintaining
expensive, centralized servers. Since his followers are concerned with
cost of ownership, they'll presumably ship out his workstations too
high apps and ownership costs. Based on the total, total cost, NT would
to be the best alternative for serving NCs.
Scott will Javize the world by providing Java processor chips,
and compilers to put everywhere from pacemakers to mainframes. He told
how Java programs are safe, secure, and reliable. Mission critical
can be freely shipped about and run anywhere without fear of viruses at
maintenance cost of zero. Somehow any combination of apps can be
configured on his NC and it just runs right. This is in contrast to the
of statically binding apps to PCs or workstations.
Programmer followers are glad for Java, having just spent fifteen years
the desert with ADA, C++, Forth, Telescript and other mirages.
We are on the verge of something new... and only the oblivious PC makers
stand in the way. I doubt if they get it. PCs look just like the same
Boca box into which users stuffed boards to make a computer that
communicates with a LAN, public net, disk, display and audio. One can
understand why Larry and Scott claim their mothers cannot use PCs. We
need to persevere and create a brand new PC environment that has no
of the old, and in this way can truly re-engineer the future.
JERCIs armed with network computers offer to solve computing's ills as
as there aren't too many types and they remain stateless... like 3270s,
VT100s, Xterminals, and diskless workstations. They reduce the cost of
ownership of distributed computers (e.g. PCs and workstations) because
servers can maintain things dynamically. Servers are not inexpensive to
maintain and manage either, but there are fewer of them.
As network computers get closer to reality, they seem to acquire more
and in time will probably look a lot like PCs and especially
because they're all likely to be different. The big gain is that we
get the benefit of centrally control computing AKA mainframes that we
several times with minis, workstations, PCs, and VendorIX servers.
By the way: I hope you get the impression that I'm one-hundred percent
behind NCs for users who use a few apps like mail. As an NT user and
manager with NCD remote windowing terminals, I applaud the idea and
it's the best network computer server. I just want to make sure when we
finally get these new computers that have the benefit of competition --
I can use those made by Scott, Mark, Gil, Lou, Larry or Moe or whoever,
interchangeably. This just might be the final straw to reduce our
on those expensive workstations. And by the way, we also get rid of the
software industry because all those downloaded JAVA programs can be read
What do I really think about the Network Computer?
Network computers (a.k.a. diskless workstations, a.k.a. Xterminals using
time-shared servers) are flawed in three ways as they are developing
they are likely to be :
closed and proprietary; limited by networks and lack of memory
that have so far shown them to be ineffective; and they trade-off the
ubiquity, freedom, flexibility, and multi-media aspects of PCs.
cost comparisons are specious because they fail to take into account the
myriad of costs including the need to re-engineer the various UNIX
aka VendorIX to cope with the demands of a real-time, timesharing system
to maintain complex remote apps on a dynamic basis.
Unique client platforms will take us back to proprietary VendorIX and
mainframe server platforms and the resulting hardware-software-app
The network computer (a.k.a. diskless workstation of ten years ago) was
clear failure because apps usually exceeded local memory requirements
requiring memory paging via LANs. While network computers (a.k.a.
Xterminals) may work just fine for some apps we know today such as mail,
browsing, and 3270 and other terminal emulation, they are likely to be
unsuitable for the emerging apps such as video telephony.
Let's face it, network computers have made their biggest gain: they have
forced the PC industry to focus on total cost of ownership.
Gordon Bell is a senior researcher in Microsoft's Telepresence Research
Group. He is a member of netWorker's editorial advisory board.