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Xeon, terminals for PC Expo

Leading PC makers show off systems with the next-generation Pentium II while others will be taking the wraps off Windows terminals.

NEW YORK--Starting today at the PC Expo trade show, leading PC makers are showing off systems with the next-generation of Pentium II processors while other companies are taking the wraps off Microsoft's version of the network computer.

Although Intel's Pentium II Xeon processor hasn't been announced yet--it's expected on June 29--PC makers are using the New York event as a backdrop for showcasing prototype high-end server and workstation computers based on this powerful chip.

PC Expo Sneak Peak
Major PC vendors preview upcoming servers and workstations based on the 400-MHz Xeon Pentium II processor.

Microsoft and a host of terminal vendors finally roll out network computers based on Windows CE. These hook up to Microsoft NT Server's Terminal Server Edition.

Makers of flat panels such as Samsung have sub-$1,000 LCD displays on the show floor.

The first Xeon chips to be released will run at 400 MHz and contain extra high-speed memory to increase the performance of the chips. In September, Intel is expected to roll out a 450-MHz version to PC makers.

Compaq Computer, IBM, Dell, and Gateway all have server systems using the Xeon chip for Expo attendees to look over. Only Dell is expected to show a Xeon-based workstation, while Hewlett-Packard is currently not expected to show any Xeon-based systems.

The chip is important to Intel because the company hopes to recover some of the lower margins it is now seeing on its Pentium and Pentium II chips by charging a hefty price on Xeon. PC vendors, in turn, get a more powerful chip that can be used to challenge Unix-based workstations from vendors such as Sun.

The decidedly less powerful Celeron is also on display at PC Expo. Compaq just introduced a new consumer PC with an updated 300-MHz version of the low-cost, low-margin chip. Dell is also offering a corporate desktop PC with the same chip. Like the 266-MHz Celeron, the second take comes without secondary memory cache that's critical for feeding the processors with a steady stream of data.

Also next week, thin will be in--as in "thin clients" and flat panel displays.

After initially deriding the concept of the network computer (NC), Microsoft is now extolling the "cost of ownership" benefits of using thin client hardware. Next week, it will release a version of Microsoft NT Server software called Terminal Server Edition.

Simultaneously, major terminal makers like Boundless Technologies, Network Computing Devices, Neoware Systems, Tektronix, and Wyse Technology are showing off a new class of thin-client desktop hardware based on the Windows CE operating system.

The terminal devices come with relatively small amounts of memory, no hard disk drives, and low-powered processors; they are designed to access Windows NT-based desktop and applications running on a central server.

Another significant hardware trend is the increasing affordability of flat panel displays. Samsung, for instance, is rolling out new 13.3-inch and 15-inch LCD displays that will be priced at $799 and $1399, respectively. Compaq, Toshiba, and IBM have even begun offering consumer PCs with LCD displays, and may show the systems off at PC Expo.

Flat panel monitors weigh less, take up much less space, and consume about one-third the power of cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors found on most office desktops. In spite of their advantages, LCD screens are not often found on desktops because they have historically been priced three to four times higher than CRT monitors.