I’ve always been intrigued with distributed computing — harnessing the power of many computers in order to complete a single task, like cracking encrypted information, or discovering how proteins are folded, or even searching for extraterrestrial life. That’s why I’m floored with Gateway’s announcement that the company intends to create a huge distributed computing network comprised of all of the in-store floor model computers. What a cool idea! (A little more detail is available from arstechnica.) Gateway already has the computers sitting there, doing precious little (and even then, for less than half the day), and the incremental cost to installing a small piece of client software is negligible.
Of course, the next logical step will be offering a slight computer discount to customers who are willing to allow the distributed networking software to continue running after the machine is purchased. Juno tried something similar with the Juno Virtual Supercomputer Network — offering free Internet access in return for running number-crunching software — but the effort was short-lived, mostly because the company failed to notify customers that it was adding the feature to their software. Offering the option to customers up-front may be a better way to get acceptance, and potentially worth more than Gateway’s failed attempt at being an ISP.