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How PaaS could drive sustainability into the PC market

PaaS, or “PCs-as-a-Service,” is a concept we’ve been chasing under different terms ever since we moved from mainframes and terminals. The irony is that back when the mainframe was dominant, computing was a service. You didn’t initially buy a mainframe; you leased it and effectively paid for monthly. Then a focus on short-term profits kicked in and hardware went from predominantly leased to predominantly sold. That change turned what was a surprisingly green technology industry into the forklift upgrade, anything-but-green alternative we have today. 

PaaS is the result of our desperate plea to go back to that more sustainable past.

At the moment, no one is doing PaaS right – outside of cable companies who still mainly operate on that model and are becoming obsolete.  But cloud services, virtual operating systems, 5G, and an increasing desire to save the planet are driving us back to a mainframe-like model, albeit with entirely different hardware. 

The problem with the sales model

As already noted, we started with a relatively sustainable tech model that favored services over sales. So why can’t you make system sales sustainable?  It comes down to how revenue and costs are determined.  With system sales, the focus, once the market is mature, is on replacing the old product with new.  This replacement cycle forces highly competitive pricing and low-cost design.

This model is used for most of the hardware we consume, be it appliances or vehicles. Products are made as inexpensively as possible because longevity is counterproductive to new sales, which is what generates revenue.  These cost reductions result in products that are often hard to service and nearly impossible to recycle. 

Since buyers tend to focus on price, additional costs, which would need to be passed on to the buyer, can’t be sustained because of competitive pricing pressure from firms that design in similar recycling capability.  So, you could create a far greener product, but you’d likely have trouble selling it because your less-green competitors would, due to lower costs, appear to offer better value. 

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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