Mobile

First CE-based "thin client" ships

Network Computing Devices is the first to market with the ThinStar 200, based on Microsoft's Windows CE operating system.

Network Computing Devices has begun shipping its NCD ThinStar 200 terminal, a "thin client" device based on Microsoft's Windows CE operating system.

The ThinStar 200 is the first such device to ship with Microsoft's officially released version of Windows CE.

"Thin-client" computing is so named because the desktop unit, typically less powerful than even low-end PCs, largely relies on a server computer for storage and even processing functions. This "back-end" style of computing reduces both overall system acquisition and management costs, according to advocates. ThinStar 200 goes for a suggested price of $695.

NCD announced at the aptly named Thinergy '98 show that the first 150 units of the ThinStar 200 were shipped yesterday to a national government customer who is beginning a large deployment of the device. NCD had previously shipped 1,000 units under the company's QuickStart program.

The ThinStar 200 features a 100-MHz chip, 8 or 16MB of memory, U.S. and international keyboards, and supports up to 1024x768 resolution.

NCD expects the ThinStar 200 to sell in the "hundreds of thousands," said Lorraine Hariton, senior vice president of marketing at NCD. She would not comment on which government customer bought the device.

The thin client arena is likely to capture the computing world's attention during the next few months, say advocates, although sales to date have not matched expectations. The thin-client architecture has begun to attract corporate customers, hardware vendors, and resellers, executives in the thin client world have said.

Microsoft, Intel and others have also stepped up their product focus in this arena compared to 1997.

In March, Intel and NCD inked a deal involving a substantial investment on Intel's part. In turn, NCD revealed plans to start building thin client machines around Intel's Pentium and Pentium II architecture. Hewlett-Packard is expected to upgrade some of its thin client boxes in the near future.

Still, the thin client dream remains challenged by a number of factors. Descending PC prices have taken some of the attractiveness away from the thin client concept. The thin client world has also been mired in a debate between which underlying technology--Java or Windows CE--will form the basis of thin client networks.