A new market is born

Coming to you soon, real soon. And it will mean that the computer I'll be writing this blog on two years from now will turn out to be much cheaper than its cost of production.

What is it that gets me so excited? Stories like this:

More than 250,000 PS3 owners have enrolled their console in the Folding@HoME project which uses it to study the shapes proteins assume.

And, even more, stories like this:

Sun Microsystems has launched a pay-as-you-go service which will allow customers requiring huge computing power to rent it by the hour.

Sun Grid costs users $1 for an hour's worth of processing and storage power on systems maintained by Sun.

So-called grid computing is the latest buzz phrase in a company which believes that computer capacity is as important a commodity as hardware and software. Sun likened grid computing to the development of electricity.

The company will have to persuade data centre managers to adopt a new model but it said it already had interest from customers in the oil, gas and financial services industries.

Today, most companies that rely on computing power face high costs associated with IT maintainance, building up excess processing capacity to deal with peak times (which may be few and far between) and storing all this power in what is expensive real estate.

For such a company, the ability to rent processing power on demand is an amazing boon. But despite Sun's rhetoric, the comparative advantage lies elsewhere: home computers.

Just realise that the average home machine operates only a few hours a day, and even fewer at full capacity. Home users already meet the fixed costs of maintainance and real estate. How long till some clever silicon valley entrepreneur adapts the (already available) software and develops a viable business model?