Geekspeak: April 16, 2001

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.