I just read an editorial that peaked my interest because the concept has been in back of my mind for a while.
The editorial was entitled "Microsoft Should Make Servers Compelling" and is rare for a Dave Coursey editorial in that it was not just a soap-box rant. David basically stated that Microsoft’s cash cow Office is running out of milk and it’s time for Microsoft to look for money elsewhere. And he thinks they should look for money in servers. But not servers purchased by and for IT; instead
"Servers Microsoft can sell to users, or at least servers with such compelling benefit that users demand their IT department install and support them. Better, Microsoft could sell entry-level servers that users could "sneak" onto the network by running it on a spare PC in their workgroup."
He goes on to say:
"The ideal "server for the people," besides being right-now useful, would be able to harness the power of an older PC to help make better use of the hardware customers already own. Microsoft’s hardware OEMs could also sell standalone network appliances or other ready-to-run hardware to implement these services."
I think David’s hit the nail on the head, especially now that most people have access to at least one older PCs and/or they can buy a new PC so inexpensively. More and more I’ve recently felt the computer industry underutilizes agents and service processes in home and small business/departmental computing.
Many apps run as a "service" on your Windows XP computer, such as Google Desktop, but most people don’t think of their desktop computer as also being an "always-on" server running agents for them, and software companies don’t release products like that either.
Heck, a home server could even be a $100 appliance running Window CE 5.0 ($100 if mass-produced, of course.)
If Microsoft would make server-based network software that is iPod-simple to set up, if they released an agent server as a software product, i.e. a batch server designed for grandma, if the agent server was designed to support any number of 3rd party agents, I think we’d see an explosion of innovation (and revenue for Microsoft) in "Servers for End Users."