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NCs catching corporate eye

Market research says the corporate market is beginning to pay attention to thin clients and committing budget money to the idea.

The corporate market is at last paying attention to so-called network computers--also known as thin clients--and is committing budget money to the idea.

So says the Yankee Group, a market research firm that focuses on networking issues. Network computers (NCs) are loosely defined as computers that need a powerful server computer to do most of the processing of information from applications such as database or spreadsheet software. Proponents claim the diskless NCs are easier and cheaper to maintain than PCs because control over hardware and software is centralized.

In its survey of the largest 100 U.S. companies, the Yankee Group says 65 percent are planning to purchase NCs in the next two years. Of that same group, more than half are evaluating or pilot-testing the use of NCs.

As corporations expand the use of intranets and platform-independent Java applications, Yankee Group analysts say they expect demand for NCs to grow rapidly.

But not this year. The survey, which is expected to be completed and released next month, shows that only 17 percent of the companies surveyed have set aside money to purchase NCs in 1997. One possible reason is that planning for a network of servers and NC clients that can handle the increased data traffic is a complicated task that will only begin to come to fruition in 1998.