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MarkCollette
May 7, 2003, 08:56 PM
There's been a bunch of talk about Apple maybe comingout with a tablet, and talk about the (lack of) success that the microsoft windows based ones have experienced.

From what I gather, the MS camp has two products either for sale,or in the works. The first is the tablet, which is like a notebook, but the whole thing is a display, but with no keyboard. The Other is a "smart display", which appears to be a dumb display that allows the user to user their desktop remotely. Unfortunately, the desktop can only be used by the smart display, and not by another user during that time.

Ok, a lot of background info, first:
Now, as a corporate and residential user, I think they have it all wrong, and would like to detail what I think should be done, preferably by Apple, but otherwise by MS. At my work we all run a unix X session from a main server, where all the apps are managed for us, and our data is centrally backed-up. We all use Win NT desktops with the displays being forwarded to us by VNC. We can move about and reconnect to our VNC display from anywhere to do our development. When we need the most interactivity we run the app on the local NT workstation. All persistent data is saved to the centralised computer, not the workstation. The fact we have to do all this just shows how much MS has dropped the ball.

The Apple solution should be to allow us to run applications on our local machines always, in a unix environment, but the apps would be stored centrally, for easier management. The logged-in screen that all of the applications are displaying to should be redirectable to another machine, just like X, but the applications should not be tied to the display, so that any number of users can be actively using the machine, but the user sitting right in front of it gets the hardware accellerated display. All "displays" would be completely separated from each other, except that they would potentially slow down the machine. Also, not only should the screen be forwarded, but if any user tries to play a music file, or watch a movie, then that will be forwarded as well. Quality would degrade relative to the network bandwidth connectng the two machines. Plus, in my case, the central file server would only be serving data, while the workstations do the processing.

How does that long boring story have anything to do with smart displays and tablets? Well, once that is done, and has been debugged on regular computers, it's a trivial detail to forward it to a smart display, except that this one would be multi-user, and thus would kick ass. So, the smart display need not be running a full-blown Mac OS X, it need only run something understanding the Quartz + sound protocol (like the X, and VNC protocols), and have a bit of memory for caching data being streamed to it.
No apps
No hard-drive to backup
No moving parts to wear down or use up batteries
Just a CPU, memory, Quartz Extreme certified graphics card, Airport [Extreme], and a battery. The display should be at the least 800x600 and 8". In total, it should cost under $500. Larger screens would cost more. An optional docking station would make it act like a complete workstation, without the admin hassles of having another full computer.

The required software would make many companies want to use Macs, and the smart display would be great for them too. Mom and pop would love the smart displays too, since instead of waiting for the other people to get off the computer, they can just grab a display, and get to work, or have some fun.

As for the fully functional tablet, with this software it could be a smart display when that was all that was needed, and could be a full-blown computer when away from the office/home. If Apple added a standard for running applications to pass off their running state to other instances of themselves, on other machines, then you could be in dumb display mode, start editing a file, and as you walk out of range of your network, it would automatically start the same app locally, with your document, and you would continue working, near seamlessly. Returning in range of the network would resync back your documents.

An ideas?

mim
May 7, 2003, 10:33 PM
A lot of people in this forum seem to be against the this kind of idea. I personally think it's the only sensible way forward. The days of being tied to a single desk at home or in the office is over. At home, esspecially, it makes no sense to have a 'desktop' if that computer is supposed to be running dvd's, sound, your digital life (aka digital hub). The remote monitor is the way to go here. I wrote a fair bit about it back in this thread http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=25941 - look towards the end.

Your office wish-list set up sounds quite complicated. I imagine an out of the box Apple set-up to be much simpler. I think there will always be a box-screen relationship, even if that box is part of a cluster or grid. I think the box will probably do all the video processing rather than the display handling this. It gets streamed to the remote display via Airport (or sent as Quartz Extreme textures, whatever).

When you want better quality video you plug it into the box via firewire 800 - no separate docking station (note, in your office set-up the box could still be remote &/or part of a grid - firewire800 has cable lengths of upto 100m I think). The display has enough power to act as a pda type thing when you take it out of airport range.

a.

MarkCollette
May 9, 2003, 12:23 AM
My office wish list was not a wish list, it was what we have to do to get what we need, right now. My wish list would be for the Mac to do it all, and maybe with the help of a tablet.

We need an x86 box since we need the speed for our engineering software. Maybe the 970 would fix that.

We need to VNC to a UNIX box, since NT is not UNIX. Mac OS X would be a great UNIX environment, and also already has the ability to export its display.

BUT, only good old X11 has the ability to run multiple desktops off of one box _simultaneously_. If Mac OS X could do that, plus multimedia, wirelessly, then that would open many doors. Throwing in the smart display would allow greater penetration for people who can only justify the cost of one full-blown computer, but who would like a second or a third.