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September 09, 2003

Intel's pocket server project

Intel “Personal Server” research: mobile computing in the palm of your hand

Intel has done research into a personal server, a tiny Linux box with a web server and wireless connection, that is intended to give users access to their data from anywhere. It’s an interesting approach, but it overlooks one hard-and-fast consumer law: People don’t want to carry more stuff around.

Would I use such a device if it was built into my phone or my iPod, the two gadgets that are most likely to be by my side? Absolutely. But the best solution of all is not to put my critical data on a portable device that’s subject to theft, loss, dead batteries, and corporate IT policies (do you want users bringing in gigs and gigs of who knows what on a device that expects full peering privileges on your network?).

No, the right answer is to accept and accelerate the necessity of always-on broadband. My personal server is accessible from anywhere in the world, and is totally invisible, weightless, and massless as I wander the planet. It doesn’t slow me down explaining it to the airport security staff, and I don’t have to make sure I’ve plugged it in before going to sleep, lest I be unable to get any work done the next day.

My personal server lives in my house, where it occupies a quiet corner of my office, sucking whatever power it needs from a wall socket, and whatever bandwidth it needs from the DSL connection, and letting me log in securely from all over the world. What’s better is that it’s not just my personal server; my family can use it, and you’re reading my inane (insane?) chatterings off it right now.

This is part of the promise of the product I imagine when I discuss the iServe (about which more later this week). The Intel project is smart to realize that a computer that doesn’t have to support a display has a lot of advantages in this sort of project, but it’s dumb if it believes that any product based on this technology would better serve customers needs than a 40-gig iPod.

September 9, 2003 in General computing, iServe and home servers | Permalink


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Tracked on Sep 24, 2003 1:31:22 PM


These matchbox-sized computers have been around for awhile, and I agree with you: they're the province of geeks with cyborg tendencies.

This phenomenon of always-on broadband takes very little getting used to and you find more uses for it as you go along.

I'm eager to read more on the iServe: I agree it's an idea whose time has come, but I'm not sure there are enough of us to make a market. If Apple couldn't move enough Cubes to keep them alive, what chance does a box that is designed to be unsexy?

Posted by: paul at Sep 9, 2003 11:51:51 PM

Bear in mind asking programmer/techie types to design lifestyle devices is like asking a deaf guy to make you a violin.

(No insult toward the hearing impaired intended, of course.)

Also consider Intel wants to sell chips. Lots of them. Convincing you to lug devices around surely benefits that goal.

I've often stated (and did so while working at Apple on the Newton) that what people need is a PDA for their house. But given most programmers don't own homes (let alone ever GO home) the violin analogy applies... Asking them to make a household lifestyle device is rather silly as they don't tend to HAVE household-oriented lives.

I'd much rather have an always-on box at the house ready to act as my own personal repository. Sure, it's not without it's hassles but they're a lot less worrisome than thinking some hosted service is A) going to survive and B) not pimp my personal data out to direct marketing or the goverment.

Gimme an hServe (house server) and smart client interfaces to it instead.

Posted by: Bill Kearney at Sep 24, 2003 1:14:09 PM