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Internet Toaster: And the readers say: Yes!

SunWorld Online readers support the ideas behind the `Internet Terminal'

By Michael McCarthy

January  1996
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Our survey of SunWorld Online readers posted here starting January 1 has yielded strong, even impassioned, response -- and surprisingly robust support for the whole idea of such a revolutionary change in the computing model represented by the device variously known as the Internet Toaster, the Internet Appliance, or the Internet PC.

Detailed results to date are given below. A plurality of readers say their organizations are likely candidates for buying a low-cost device capable of interacting with the Internet. Our January lead news story, "Internet Toaster," outlines vendor hopes for such a device. Using the Internet the way workstations use a local network, an Internet Toaster in theory could be stripped to a minimum of hardware and software, using the Internet as an extension of itself -- the network truly becoming the computer. The notion has been stimulated by Java, Sun's enthusiastically received programming language that can download small programs, or applets, to be executed by Web browsers. Java promises smaller, downloadable code capable of operating on any platform regardless of CPU or operating system, giving rise to visions of a future market in which small software modules are downloaded on demand, and paid for by download, by subscription, or as an adjunct to some other service.

Internet Toaster-supporting vendors such as Sun Microsystems and Oracle Corp. have speculated that such a system could undermine Microsoft Corp.'s and Intel's dominance of the desktop market, simultaneously rendering the computer platform irrelevant and radically altering the march towards fatter, all-inclusive, resource-intensive software. Nay-sayers sneer at such talk as self-serving rhetoric of Microsoft-bashers.

But 40 to 50 percent of readers responding to the SunWorld Online poll so far say they are likely candidates to buy such a device for home use, believe the device will gain popularity in two years or less, and believe it just might break the Intel-Microsoft duopoly.

Huge majorities -- between two-thirds and 82 percent of respondents -- assert that such a sub-$1,000 device can be built and will be well received by price-sensitive buyers. They don't think it's just hype from anti-Microsoft vendors -- but do believe naysayers have a vested interested in the PC desktop status quo.

Asked who will be hurt and who will be helped by an active market in Internet PCs, 72 percent picked Sun Microsystems as a winner, 39 percent saw Oracle doing well, 27 percent thought X-terminal makers would prosper in such a market, and around 20 percent gave the nod to Sun rivals HP, Digital Equipment Corp., and Silicon Graphics. Interestingly, more than 10 percent picked Intel and Microsoft as benefitting from the Internet PC market.

The self-selecting respondents are disproportionately Unix professionals, with 53 percent using a RISC workstation at work. 26 percent, however, use Windows-on-Intel at work, and more than half use Windows at home.

--Michael McCarthy


SunWorld Online January 1996 Reader Survey Results

Topic: Tell us what you think about Internet terminals

Number of respondents: 171
as of 10 a.m. January 17, 1996

  1. Given what we know about the proposed sub-$1,000 Internet terminals, is your organization a likely candidate for purchasing such a device?

        Yes:                                              45.9% 
        No:                                               40.0% 
        I don't know:                                     14.1% 

  2. Given what we know, are you a likely candidate for purchasing such a device for home use?
        Yes:                                              43.2% 
        No:                                               46.7% 
        I don't know:                                     10.1% 

  3. The Internet terminal will:
        gain popularity in two years or less:             51.8% 
        gain popularity in more than two years*:          48.2% 
        never be popular*:                                 0.0% 
    (*Owing to a mal-formed HTML form, most of the responses for these two selections have been lumped together as one result, namely "gain popularity in more than two years." The error has since been fixed.)

  4. Given what we know about Internet terminals today, what is your reaction to the following statements:

  5. Should Internet terminals become popular, which firms will be hurt most? (select all that apply)
        Digital:                                           8.6% 
        HP:                                                6.2% 
        IBM:                                              12.3% 
        Intel:                                            47.5% 
        Microsoft:                                        64.8% 
        Oracle:                                            2.5% 
        SGI:                                               5.6% 
        Sun Microsystems:                                  4.3% 
        PC cloners:                                       48.1% 
        X terminal makers:                                27.2% 
        PC X server software developers:                  22.8% 
        None of the above:                                13.6% 

  6. Should Internet terminals become popular, which firms will benefit most? (select all that apply)
        Digital:                                          19.5% 
        HP:                                               23.4% 
        IBM:                                              17.5% 
        Intel:                                            11.0% 
        Microsoft:                                        11.7% 
        Oracle:                                           39.0% 
        SGI:                                              22.7% 
        Sun Microsystems:                                 72.1% 
        PC cloners:                                       13.0% 
        X terminal makers:                                27.9% 
        PC X server software developers:                  10.4% 
        None of the above:                                12.3% 

  7. My primary computer at my place of work is a:
        Intel-compatible PC running Windows:              27.2% 
        Intel-compatible PC running Unix:                  4.1% 
        Intel-compatible PC running other:                 3.0% 
        RISC workstation:                                 53.3% 
        Macintosh:                                         4.1% 
        X terminal:                                        8.3% 
        Other:                                             0.0% 

  8. My primary computer at home is a:
        Intel-compatible PC running Windows:              54.8% 
        Intel-compatible PC running Unix:                 10.1% 
        Intel-compatible PC running other:                 4.8% 
        RISC workstation:                                  6.5% 
        Macintosh:                                        11.9% 
        Other:                                             3.6% 
        I don't have a computer at home:                   8.3% 

Also see the file Readers comment on the Internet appliance for more.

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