The difference between business and consumer PCs is moving further apart as vendors recognise that the needs of those users are not the same, according to Fujitsu architecture manager Tom Sjoquist.
Speaking at a joint press conference for Intel's MMX chip in Sweden late last year, Sjoquist said that vendors are only just coming to realise that not all the features of consumer PCs are desirable in the business environment, and vice versa, a realisation that is driving the push for simpler devices such as NCs and Net PCs.
According to Sjoquist, the increasing complexity of PCs and the inherent problems it brings is driving many administrators to ask for simpler PC architectures. "They want a stable platform; they want longevity; they want exactly the performance they are asking for - not to be forced to buy more than they need. And I think that customers are more aware of what the need is in their organisation. There will always be a need for high performance PCs, but in parallel there have always existed the office workers that really don't need more power."
Sjoquist says Fujitsu is now intent on developing different technology sets to suit the two environments. Common to both product sets will be a focus on the Internet, media rich applications, ergonomics and remote support.
Where home PCs will differ is through more of an appliance-like behaviour, moving to a device which is sealed but externally expandable. Serial and parallel ports will be replaced by connection technology such as Universal Serial Bus, while other likely inclusions are DVD, MPEG-2, 3-D graphics and surround sound.
On the other hand, business PCs will address issues such as security, total cost of ownership, manageability and an emphasis on networking and groupware - features considered otherwise irrelevant to the home market.
Also common to both types are sealed case systems, as business administrators try to maximise control over their environments. Hence the move to network-based terminal devices, the philosophies of which Sjoquist says date back to the mainframe era. "I think that's coming back, and it's coming from the customer side this time. The industry has been focused very much on the consumer side, and more or less totally forgetting about where they have their huge installed base of PCs, and that's in the corporate side." Hence the prevalence of consumer technology in corporate PCs, says Sjoquist.
He adds that Fujitsu's goal is to have the telephone as a metaphor for corporate PCs. While admitting there is a long way to go before getting there, Sjoquist says Fujitsu's commitment to the Net PC platform proposed by Intel and Microsoft is a step in the right direction. "The PC is not a stable platform, because it is so complex. If you take a fully featured PC there are really too many things to go wrong. We would never accept a telephone that cuts off your calls every third call.
"But by limiting the functionality and making it a more fixed-function device you get much closer to the reliability and the availability of a telephone."
Note: Brad Howarth was a guest of Fujitsu at its MMX technology briefings in Linkoping, Sweden, held late last year.