The “thin client” model of computing has seen a lot of hype over the years, particularly in the late 1990s from companies like Oracle and Sun Microsystems. The idea was that users would use a low-power, low-functionality computer to connect to server functionality over a network. The thin client model never caught on, largely because the thin client computers were not less expensive, easier to use, or more secure than an ordinary computer.
Now that I’ve seen the Apple iPad demonstrated, it strikes me that the software design of the iPad is based on much of the work that went into the thin-client model. But unlike the thin clients of the 1990s, the iPad is easier to use and more secure than an ordinary computer. It’s actually thin in a material sense, and I fully expect that after a few rounds of price cuts, it will also be less expensive than a desktop computer.
I don’t know if any serious engineers are still working on the thin-client model, but if they are, it is time for them to recompile their thin client applications as iPad apps to see what benefits they might gain from running on a real thin client.