It’s been a good year for the advancement of thin-client technology, especially in the Windows world. After all, although terminal emulation of one kind or another has been around for decades, Windows is the quintessential standalone client OS, developed for individual PCs, not for cooperation between computers. Windows wasn’t even network-aware on its own until Microsoft released Windows for Workgroups in 1992. Since then, Windows has become not only network-aware but also terminal-aware as Microsoft realized that there indeed is something to this shared processing idea. Terminal services also represents one of the best things to happen to interoperability, as Citrix, SCO, GraphOn, and other companies come up with products that make it not only possible but easy for people using one OS to run applications designed for another, without the performance hits that can result from "translating" applications from one platform to another. It's too soon to say whether it's a real beginning, but 1999 has also seen the potential for more application outsourcing as organizations consider the move from a client-centric computing model to a server-centric one. People aren’t ready to give up their fat clients, and they probably won't ever give them up for heavy-duty applications, but they’re at least willing to consider the possibility that server-based applications will work in some situations.
That’s where we’ve been this year. If you’re interested in where we’re going with server-based computing, go to the Windows NT Magazine Web site on January 3 to see industry leader and analyst thoughts on what’s in store for thin-client devices, application service providers (ASPs), in-house use of terminal services, and other predictions about the industry for 2000. Although I’m not expecting any sea changes in the next 12 months, the events and attitudes of 1999 have laid the groundwork for more acceptance of server-based computing and some serious changes in the way that people view computing. It will be interesting to see how all this shakes out.