Long back, once in a while, my linux computer used to give me this fortune cookie:

Network is the computer; Oops! Network is the network; computer is the computer. Sorry for the mix-up.

Or, something to that effect, which is an obvious joke on the logo of the Sun microsystems.

Today’s Hindu carries an editorial about broad-based computing, which relies on network as the computer paradigm. The homepage of the company referred to in the article, Novatium, also has some information on their netPC.

As usual, the Wiki page on Network Computer is full of information and contains links (among other things) to this FAQ (which is rather old) and to this Byte.com article (which is relatively recent).

As the Wiki article points out, the idea of Network PCs might have been ahead of its time. If so, I would tend to agree with the conclusion of the Hindu editorial that the network PCs along with open source software might actually be able to bridge the digital divide effectively:

For the majority of the people, bridging the digital divide will depend on innovation that exploits low-cost hardware, open source software, and network opportunities such as cabling, mobile telephony, and wireless to broaden and democratise access.

Finally, with all this potential, can Google be far behind? While Google denied the report, a thin client maker says that they did in fact have discussions with Google on the issue.