aNewDomain.net — It was the year 2000. And pretty much everyone thought we were crazy. At the time, I was running as CEO Larry Ellison’s New Internet Computer (NIC) company. Our product was the Linux-based web-only $199 NIC — a network computer with no hard disk, no Windows and, fatally for us, no cloud services at the time to lean on. But Ellison and our team were prescient. The vision was that every kid in every school should have one. Ellison’s foundation gave thousands of NICs away to a ton of schools nationally and worldwide. We sold them, too. That’s why the Google Chromebooks for Every Student video Google released today made me smile.
And it made me wonder. Is it finally time? We knew the era of thin client computing was inevitable back then. Has tech finally caught up? Schools rebelled back then — they were stuck on local storage and local word processing. No longer. So what’s up now?
Check out the video Google posted on its Chromebooks for all Students plan. This was exactly the plan — to the letter — for NIC, which evaporated with the dot com fiasco 10 years ago. What a difference a decade makes. Not to mention all the power behind Google and Google I/O 2013.
Video credit: Google Chrome channel on YouTube
Gina Smith is editorial director with John C. Dvorak and Jerry Pournelle of aNewDomain.net. She and our site’s co-founder David Street served as CEO and COO at Larry Ellison’s NIC Company from 1999 to 2003.
I remember meeting with you about the NIC. I believe the year was 2001. Then in 2002, I met with Bill Gates on his plans for the Microsoft Tablet PC. Both great ideas. Both before their time. It is amazing to see how things pan out in our crazy world of technology.
Your story reminded me of many rather disappointing conversations with Mike Edelhart about PC Week’s advertiser’s reaction to the Connectivity section. I’m paraphrasing, but the gist of it was, “You keep telling us this stuff is coming. Come back when it’s here.”
Those conversations, along with my experience at several prescient but ill-timed or poorly-executed dot.coms in the years that followed made it clear to me that a brilliant idea isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on if the timing is off or the execution fall short. (Classic example: all the years that Microsoft tried to force feed Windows, and IBM took the same track with OS/2, before there was hardware capable of running either of them well.)
Of course, the biggest difference between today’s Chromebook and the NIC isn’t the hardware, it’s that Chromebooks come with a free year of 1GB cloud storage instead of a year of dial-up service. The web wasn’t ready for NIC. It might be for Chromebooks.