"What about applications? Something beyond the operating system
is required in order to gain access to the cloud, and cost must be
considered here, as well. The cloud has made thin clients possible,
but the key to making them inexpensive is limiting the cost of the
software to run them.
"As most developers know, some of the most powerful
network-oriented applications available are completely free,
including Web browsers (such as Firefox, Opera, and Chrome), e-mail
software (such as Thunderbird and Evolution), instant messaging
(such as Pidgin and Trillian), and multi-platform application
environments (such as Java™ technology). The combination of
just these four application types alone would make a formidable
thin client, all completely free.
"Note, however, that free, open source operating systems and
applications do not mean that you can make a device completely
without cost. As noted open source developer Jamie Zawinski
famously said, "Free software is only free if your time has no
value." You must accept a certain amount of work to design and
implement systems based on free software, just as you must do when
evaluating proprietary software. However, because the base product
is free and its source code is available, the value gained for that
time is far higher for free software than for paid software, even
if the process itself takes a little longer."