Geekspeak: April 16, 2001

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-04-16 Print this article Print

Comdex Keynote Commemorates Death of the Fat-Client PC

The PC is the least efficient way to access the internet," National Semiconductor Chairman, President and CEO Brian Halla said in his keynote speech at Comdex earlier this month.

Among many PC alternatives on view at National Semis Comdex pavilion was IBMs NetVista I30 thin client, making its first public appearance. The IBM system is a high-profile design win for National Semis Geode integrated processor chip, which combines a Pentium-class core with on-board graphics, audio, memory control and a PCI interface to reduce size and power consumption of Internet access devices.

Server farms will do "the heavy lifting," Halla said, "while access devices will grow thinner." He concluded his remarks with an ironic video, "Tribute to the PC," in which a lonely desktop system in the middle of a desert played "Taps" on its internal speaker while displaying a discouraging array of error messages—and then exploded, to loud applause from the audience.

Earlier on the same day, a general-session panel discussion on Internet appliances drew a standing-room-only crowd. There seemed to be a widespread feeling at this Comdex that the next generation of fat-client PCs is more than people want to buy and maintain for the tasks that they most want to perform.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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