- more ubiquitous broadband,
- better hardware,
- Google's resources behind it,
- an ad-supported model, and
- most importantly - cloud-based apps have gained mainstream acceptance, so there's no barrier to adoption.
In previous iterations, the vision was stymied by the lack of reliable broadband connectivity everywhere, and effectively hijacked by Microsoft. Will the Windows giant, this time around, lose out to the approach conceived by Sun, Oracle and Google – a stripped-down device with long battery life and minimal local storage or apps, connecting for its data and services to the cloud (which we used to call the server)? Google pitched its latest definition of the thin client, with the launch of Chrome OS and a next generation netbook
The thin client reinvented
Back in 1997, Oracle chief Larry Ellison and Microsoft‟s Bill Gates went head-to-head on stage at a technology conference in Paris, with Ellison unleashing the new approach to computing he had cooked up with Scott McNealy, then head of Sun, and designed to kill the traditional "fat" PC with its growing software, memory and storage burden. Oracle and Sun floated the concept of thin, internet-connected clients and were joined later by Google, with its broad vision of putting every app and every piece of data and content in the cloud, to be accessed by a widening range of always-connected, slimline and mobile gadgets.
“A PC is a ridiculous device. What the world really wants is to plug into a wall to get electronic power, and plug in to get data,” said Ellison at the time.
Back then, the client device was called the "network computer", but it largely failed because of user wariness of letting their data and apps out of their own hands (still a major factor, which sees smartphones gaining ever larger memories), and because always-on connectivity was not available, so the concept was largely chained to the desk. Ellison said at the launch of the network computer: "We'll see hundreds of thousands of machines shipped in the first year. Very quickly, we'll see entire industry move to this model. By the year 2000, NCs will outsell personal computers."
This prediction worked out like most such forecasts for the latest big thing in devices.