07 February 2006

The future of computing?

There's now an online image editor at http://pxn8.com/. Go play around a little—it's limited, but a nice proof-of-concept. For many people, I expect this to be the way computing will be delivered in the future. Rather than millions of people each buying and installing an application on their own computer, and then having to deal with upgrades and bug fixes and conflicts and the like, the application will reside on a server, and the user's computer will just display the user interface.

One effect would be to greatly reduce the hardware requirements for your desktop computer, making it (in theory) much cheaper.

You'd think this would be a boon to the developing world, and it may yet be. There are a couple of major obstacles, though. One is financial—online tools like PXN8 will probably be provided on a subscriber basis, and very few people in the developing world have a way (or, indeed, the money) to pay for things online. The other roadblock, though, will be bandwidth. The megabit connection I have here in Bangkok, which costs me $25/month with no data transfer charges, could cost me as much as $2500/month next door in Cambodia. There's just no way that the average Khmer could afford a fast enough connection to make PXN8 a viable alternative to $2 bootleg Photoshop from the market.

Update: As Tharum points out in the comments, even better than bootleg Photoshop are FOSS solutions, notably GIMP (available for Unix‑y OSs including Mac OS X, and Windows).

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