A vision for eComStation - Kiosk
TITLE: A vision for eComStation - Kiosk
DATE: 2005-05-29 13:00:26
AUTHOR: Nick Morrow
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Marketing becomes much easier and actually somewhat enjoyable when you
have a product that sells itself. For a product to sell itself, as a
minimum, it needs to be either a superior solution or an adequate
solution at the lower price for a particular problem.
Currently eCS is marketed only as a general purpose x86 operating
system. It is competing against many similar products without an edge
in any market segment. No market segment appears to be targeted.
How can this be corrected?
Identify areas where eCS has the best opportunity to be a solution
with an advantage. Of these opportunities, identify the ones where
eCS can be brought to the point of being the superior solution at a
cost that is within budget. Detailed planning would then focus
efforts on issues related to the opportunity(s) identified.
The KIOSK/Library/Internet Cafe market segment (or anywhere a browser
is basically all that is required or desired). We will refer to this
concept as as "KIOSK" in the remainder of this document.
A KIOSK installation of eCS would not replace the current full system
installation capability but would rather be an additional installation
option that only installs the software required to service the needs
of the KIOSK market segment. In a KIOSK installation the browser
(either Firefox or the Mozilla suite) would replace the WPS as the
interface which would reduce the amount of ram required and eliminate
issues such as corrupt system ini files. Additional, the only system
files installed in a KIOSK installation would be those required to
support the browser and a minimal system administration tool, thereby,
reducing the minimum installation volume size dramatically.
There are various issues that may contribute to the success of a KIOSK
- Many millions of x86 computers have been sold over the last 10 years
and most are either still in service or capabile of being in service.
Some of the older systems are not in service because of the trend
where modern operating systems are becoming more and more bloated and
require more system resources than some of the older systems have.
A very thin installation that minimizes ram usage, hard drive usage
and processor usage can bring some older systems back to life or
keep systems that now marginal in operation longer.
- Viruses, spyware and other malware for the most part can not execute
on the eCS operating system.
- The need for a dedicated, simple to use and maintain installation
that only performs what is needed by the typical non-technical internet
user. Many individuals only use a computer for one thing: Internet
access. Anything beyond that is simply more complexity than is needed
- There is evidence that a thinned down, specific purpose situation
is desirable. Look at the situation surrounding Mozilla and Firefox.
From a purely technical perspective Mozilla provides a lot of
capability with few problems. On the other hand it is the single
purpose, thinned down Firefox that is the runaway in the popularity
What specific characteristics does the KIOSK market need?
What users in this market segment want:
- To browse the internet
- System configured to search and do research
- To download files and save then to CD-R\CD-RW\DVD, flash drive or
- To attach a digital camera so as to send the pictures
- To have fast system operation
- To have an interface with look and feel of current standards
- To have compatibility with virtually all web sites
- To have the ability to download and listen to music
files (then optionally save then to removable media)
- To have the ability to print
What owners/administrators want:
- Solid hassle free systems that stay that way
- Systems that users can't screw up
- Systems that are easy for users to use
- Login control and monitoring from a central location
- Low cost, minimal resource requirements
How can eCS meet these needs?
Who can sell to these markets?
- Local resellers and support shops that can sell a turn key, easily
supported, web browser only solution to those who need it or want it.
- Current vendors with customers who can benefit from a this solution.
- Viruses not a problem
- Spyware not a problem
- Solid, compatible web browsing environment
- Well known Firefox browser
- Designed for this market
- Features for this market
- Difficult for users to mess system up
- Requires minimum systen resources
In its heyday, OS/2 made its best market penetration in segments where
it was the superior solution in some way. Look at ATM's. On properly
selected hardware and given a *specific* job to do it worked
wonderfully. As an os for Fidonet systems which required minimum
downtime and very efficient multitasking it had significant market
success. Note that in both the APM and Fidonet markets the WPS was
not the factor that attracted users as VIO apps were the standard in
Give the world *superior* solutions to specific problems at a good price
and marketing becomes doable.
|Gregory L. Marx |
Great idea ! And something that is solely lacking from the major players involved with eComStation - ie an actual way to expand the market rather than simply relying on existing users to upgrade their Warp 4 installations.
One item for the future I'd like to ask ?
Nick, what suggestions do you have for eCS in the consumer space? - ie how to grow the market segment that most concerns us who bought eCS as a desktop product.
Now that'd be something I'd really be interested in reading !
|Nick Morrow |
My suggestion for consumer space?
The lack of a solid vision aimed at dramatically increasing the sales of eCS caused me to ponder the issue. At one point last year I decided to start doing market research. After a few months worth of research I started putting some ideas together. Of the ideas I assembled this is the one I decided to run with first. There will be more ideas unless we discover that the major players involved with eComStation are not receptive to the ideas.
While it may appear that this concept is only aimed at a very specific slice of the market, in reality it is not. One of the criterial that I used in picking this concept first was "Which concept allows me to start recommending this product to people?" There are many home computer users that are very tired of their systems being trashed by malware. They are asking for solutions. Many of these people do nothing with their computers except surf the net. If you market a product as a general purpose "do everything" product then folks expect that. If you market a product as a single solution then folks expect only that single solution and expect it to be done well.
In my own home I would make use of this concept. My wife does nothing with a computer except use the inet browser. Anything more than that is confusing and annoying. An ultra slim installation that gets her right to what she wants to do is right for her.
Using visions that targets specific markets will have the effect of bringing the entire FAT client to a needed level of quality over time...one vision and one market segment at a time.
Sometimes all or part of a concept can be hard to explain. How do you explain that Firefox is taking market share away from IE when Mozilla could not? The explanation is not that simple but when you start putting the various reasons on paper you notice a lot of similarity to what I'm proposing here.
I think this vision can be improved with input from the current eCS userbase. I also think that anyone who sees merit in this vision should speak to their eCS distributor about it.
|Bill Armstrong |
Well done, Nick. I think you've hit on an approach that might have some success.
Thanks for taking the time to think that through.
|Keith Cotroneo |
I like the concept. Flash would have to be upgraded to the current level.
|Ed Durrant |
What you are suggesting is a real "No Brainer" for OS/2 or eCS as OS/2 was fullfilling exactly this requirement in the same way back in 1995 - in fact OS/2 owned the KIOSK market then !! Netscape was then used as the PM Shell and indeed worked very well. Up until the Sydney Olympics all Olympic kiosks used to run OS/2. Some of the European TV set-top browser boxes in the late 90's also ran OS/2. Given the more modern Firefox browser and the ability to run without a harddisk (boot from USB key to memory), the solution is also secure and less likely to fail - it's normally harddisks that fail.
Good idea - although (sorry to disappoint you) not new.
The key question, as always is - "is there a business case" ??
|Lorne Tyndale |
Great idea. Although I think there are a few things to add.
First, I can see a need for a wider range of video codecs supported and better support within Firefox. While the range is growing especially with the Warpvision project, there are still quite a few "online video files" which either fail completely or cause things to crash (at least on my system). Yes, these are mostlly either Quicktime or Windows Media files, but the reality is that people expect these types of files to work.
The second thing I'd add is a need for card-type access control. I've been in a number of "internet cafes" or public internet kiosk sites where the access is through a card with a magnetic strip which you swipe before the machine will be released. I'm sure this is possible with OS/2, as it is essentially the same type of application as all the IBM cash-registers and ATM machines which run OS/2. But there would need to be a way to make it easy to setup and maintain.
Otherwise, it is a good idea for sure.
|Bryann Melvin |
AS I sit here on my Warp3 computer using Firefox. I say yes this IS a possibility..definitely (If I can use connect for this eCS should be fine.) .BUT
The first thing that needs to happen is for Adobe to commit to doing something other than cater to windows.
Not only is Adobe ignoring OS/2 they tend to do their best to avoid keeping unix versions current also.. and they now own flash.
Secondly for photo ...there needs to be some additional usb work done,
Third there needs to be some work done to make some usage of IM applications. I would think these would be needed for kiosk operation.
Printer compatibility shouldn't be a factor though,,, as a "cafe" operator would be well advised to use a network postscript laser printer for reliability anyway, although this is pricey for most home users,
Without these such a use is not going to work out.
|Tom Trippaers |
It is a great idea !!
In fact, I already use this idea to re-use some old pc's to only display some internal website and nothing else. This works. To use this in a general way the only thing missing is : flash, quicktime, realplayer, ... all popular plugins.
What advantages does an ECS Kiosk have over a Linux kiosk? Disadvantages would seem to be cost, less support for plugins, and mindshare.
I like the idea on its surface, and this approach would certainly help the developers pocketbook if it doesn't require much extra work. I hope eCS people are reading.
|Nick Morrow |
Thanks for the comments and keep them coming.
I intend to update the concept using information from the comments here then I intent to send the document to the eCS powers that be.
I can't replay to all comments but would like to address a few points:
Issue: What advantages does an ECS Kiosk have over a Linux kiosk?
Reply: That depends entirely on the organization that produces and supports eCS. A very well done product that is well supported can find its place in the metket. Many potential applications of this concept lend themselves to being part of an ongoing service contract and in this situation having suppliers that are dependable is far more important than initial costs. Open source may make for free software but it doesn't make for free solutions. In the end, overall execution is what counts.
Issue: What you are suggesting is a real "No Brainer" for OS/2 or eCS.
Reply: I wish it was a "no brainer." This concept will require a lot of work to get the quality needed. I do think the concept should not be a separate product only for those marketing and servicing KIOSK machines. I think many current users will make use of this very thin, specific purpose type of installation. If it works very well then others may take notice.
Issue: ...lack of mindshare concerning eCS.
Reply: Go back and reread the concept. A user, whether using a KIOSK system or running this type of installation in the home or office, will not know what the OS is. A system running a setup based on this concept will boot right into Firefox. There is no WPS. Firefox does have mindshare.
Cheers for now.
|Guillaume Gay |
bonjour to all.
I had the same ideas some years ago when we bought our first Disc Zervers (running Linux) at work. I even thought of making OS/2(-eCS) a media center just before Windows XP Media Center has seen the light. Now we have Photo Print Centers machines in the malls, and we could have imagined them running eCS.
Any eCS user could turn his machine in one of these easily, with the right combination of selected hardwares of course.
* CD-ROM server :
- Dump a CD-ROM (DVD) or any media that can be seen as a drive unit (memory card, USB memory key, digital camera) on a storage space and make it available on the network via a web interface, FTP, Samba, Netware.
- Copy the content of a CD-ROM/DVD or a saved volume to a CD/DVD.
- Allow FTP transfers to the storage space.
* Media center :
Same as above, but the interface would propose you what to do with the selected multimedia files and/or the TV/Radio tuner.
It should allow the displaying of images while listening to the radio or one of the MP3 album (selected by genre, artist or whatever)...
* Photo Print center :
- Once some pictures are copied from the media, why not printing them ?
- And why not printing these to a PDF file ?
This could be achieved with the tools already available :
- FotoGet/2 to get the media file on a dedicated (removable) drive
- FTPSer to get/and put the files remotely
- one of our media players (WarpVision, Z!, ...) to show/play the various media file on a selected output
- CDRecord/DVDDAO to burn CD/DVD
- Tonigy to convert Audio CD to MP3/Ogg or to read them
- a bunch of classic Rexx scripts to link up all the tools (RxWeb, RxEXIF, ...)
- Web/2 or any http server
- php scripts eventually for simple, dynamic, NLS ready web pages
- FireFox for the interface
- SNAP for its control over selected graphic cards
- WarpIn to install all this
and some other non free tools (like NetDriveFS).
This could be used remotely on a network, and locally with just a touch screen or on a TV screen with a remote control.
These "concepts" are not new at all indeed, but I haven't seen them on OS/2-eCS yet.
This would imply a certain knowledge in Rexx/php/web scripting. This would work on selected hardwares only and would be limited to selected media files. This would require quite some time and many "arms" to put this up...
I really would have liked to see this proposed to the eComStation users.
Bye for now.
|Lorne Tyndale |
One of the benefits of OS/2 that I ran into the other day which would be a benefit in this type of setting: The ability to quickly change or upgrade hardware without major OS / driver modification. My reasons for saying this relate to some recent experiences.
A while back I had the need to change a new motherboard into a Win2000 machine. Even though I was using the same video card, hard drive, modem, CD RW, etc - since the MB was using a different chipset and had enough differences from the old system, Win2000 would not boot - it would just crash while trying to boot. In the end I had to set up the old system again, force Windows to use "base, generic" device drivers, and then after setting up the new system again allow it to "find" all the hardware again. This was a real pain and I was not able to find this procedure documented by Microsoft (Microsoft's answer was to re-install Windows), but came through searching the web and finding others who had found a solution to this issue of replacing hardware and not wanting to reinstall Windows.
In another situation, I was trying to set up a spare computer with OS/2, to use it for back up (I do own 3 licenses to OS/2, so this isn't really a problem). Rather then running a fresh install of OS/2 and then spend time copying over stuff from my main desktop through my network, I decided to just plug the hard disk from my main desktop into the spare system making the hard disk on the spare a slave, and then just XCOPY the contents of the drive over to the spare system. The two systems are significantly different - different chipsets on the motherboard (one is via, other intel), different video cards, different sound cards, and network cards.
I figured I might run into a few problems, but in the end I didn't. I plugged the drive in and it booted up fine. SNAP recognized the video card. UNIAUD recognized the sound card. DANIS506 recognized the different chipset. The only driver that I had to change was the NIC driver. Within about 5 minutes the other machine was booted up to the desktop and running, I'd even switched over the NIC driver, running an XCOPY on the drive C over to the drive which would become the spare system's main drive.
In any situation, this is a benefit of OS/2. Minimal downtime and the ability to easily upgrade hardware - even the system mainboard - without having to worry if the OS will boot, will be needed to revert back to "generic" drivers, etc.
I don't know if this is much of an issue with Linux. To be honest I'm not familiar with Linux's device driver model to know if it is easy or difficult to change hardware.
Just my thoughts.
|Gregory L. Marx |
Concerning the ease of switching out hardware under OS2/eCS compared to windows.
It seems that windows-users use programs like Ghost, Drive Image Pro, etc to build/rebuild their win32 boxes. So the ability to easily swap out hardware isn't a problem.
IMO many windows-users wouldn't even know where or how to manually add/update drivers. The reliance on windows plug-n-play is so complete this is a non-issue.
Personally, I'm disappointed that eCS isn't actively being marketed into the consumer space. By now I'd have expected to be able to see advertisements on various tech/hardware sites for eCS, but so far, nothing. It seems they are relying strictly on the existing OS/2 userbase to update their Warp installations, and for newer business they are trying to push into the enterprise market. Which I understand money-wise, but without individual mind-share IMO eCS isn't going to grow.
None of this should surprise anyone being as the principal behind eCS is from IBM. And we know this is exactly the type of thinking IBM tried, and failed at.
Oh well. I'll continue to use eCS until I deem it no longer reasonable. By then I hope there is something other than windows to use as a valid choice.
А нельзя ли перевести статью на русский язык???
|Rich Walsh |
- for those looking for a zero-screwup solution, I'd think the ability to boot & run entirely off a CD would be quite attractive. In a commercial setting, users could save data to their memory keys (or iPods). For home use, the disk could be used as a non-bootable cache of sorts.
- drivers for FAT & FAT32 should be doctored so they don't write EAs and mess up the flash cards used in digital cameras
- the mozilla.org components that have been pieced together as a browser & email client can be combined in other ways too. How about a borderless browser window used as a multimedia Desktop filled with streaming content? Depending on your business model, you could even have (gasp/gag) embedded advertising. Lotsa possibilities...
- before I go spending any time on this, I wanna know "what's in it for me?". In all honesty, simply keeping SSI afloat isn't a compelling enough reason.
i actually came upon this site via research for eComStation and Adobe...but it's relevant to the topic: Adobe Acrobat Reader is
an integral part of web browsing (and furthermore all business useage).
eComStation needs to work with Adobe to beef up support before making any noticeable inroads into the
I for one would love to promote it but not without Adobe support, e.g. at least version 6
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