Dumb Laptops

I’d love to surf the web and code from my couch, but I don’t want to pay for an expensive wireless laptop comparable to my desktop PC or maintain two parallel sets of data and applications. So here’s an idea: dumb terminal laptops that act as wireless clients to a central desktop server.

The laptop could be completely barebones, requiring only a mouse, keyboard, display and a wireless connection. All applications and processing would be run on the server, similar to Windows Terminal Services or VNC. Without the need for a powerful CPU, hard drive or unnecessary peripherals, a simple laptop appliance could be marketed for $300 (or less). Or cheaper, if you rig your own setup using an old laptop. Does anyone know if an off-the-shelf product like this is already available?

Update: As mentioned in the comments, Microsoft’s Smart Display does exactly that. Here’s a new review from the NYT.

5 thoughts on “Dumb Laptops

  1. I don’t know about off the shelf, but that’s how I do most of my work at home now, with an old Dell laptop. Only thing it sucks for is streaming media and photoshop. For those I just toddle over to my desktop.

    This is all using XP’s (or, in the case of my desktop, .NET Server’s) Remote Desktop features. I use VNC for some non-Windows machines at work, but if the server’s a Windows box and the remote machine is running Windows or OS X, Terminal Services/Remote Desktop beats the hell out of VNC for performance.

  2. Off the shelf? Very ambitious indeed. I did some research on thin clients for desktop OSes and it’s something that most hardware and software companies don’t want you to think about since it is effecient and limits the resources you need which = less money for them.

    It might be fun to try and make one yourself with an old thinkpad or Powerbook.

    P.S. Hi Andy. Remember me?

  3. Microsoft is working on a similar device called the “Mira.” They’re being a little hush about it since it’s easily confused with the newer Tablet PCs, but yeah, basically it’s a Bluetooth touchscreen display, probably have USB for optional keyboard and mousing, that uses a WinXP machine to processing power and networking. Pretty keen idea, but I doubt they’ll get them under $900.

  4. I have a Mira and also an i-operer. I think the i-opener is much closer to what you are looking for. It isn’t a terminal and doesn’t have lots of horespower, but the form factor is less than 2 inches and it can be had for about 40 bucks US on ebay.

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