Net PCs are "sealed-case" systems that will typically have no floppy disk drive or expansion slots. Promoted by Microsoft and Intel, the systems are supposed to reduce ownership cost for companies that currently use networked PCs by allowing IS staff to maintain and update desktops from the center of the corporate network, instead of visiting each PC.
Like Net PCs from other vendors, IBM Net PCs will run on Microsoft operating system software. However, IBM will also preview a new Net PC running its "Bluebird" operating system. The Bluebird OS, which is based on IBM's OS/2, runs on a server computer--not a local PC--and allows users to "roam" from computer to computer.
In other words, a user's personal interface is not tied to any particular computer. Rather, the interface can be called up on any computer on the network, allowing users to log on to a "personal" computer anywhere in the company. The IBM technology is similar to what Microsoft proposes to do with Windows NT in a Net PC environment.
The new Net PC can operate in client computers with or without disk drives, according to IBM.
These features would give the IBM Net PC some of the properties of the competing Network Computer (NC) standard. Some see the Net PC standard itself as a response to the NC concept being promoted by Oracle and Sun.
Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell Computer helped develop the reference specifications and more than 100 manufacturers worldwide have agreed to support the platform.
The cheapest of the devices will be built around Intel's Pentium processor and cost less than $1,000, which will put them in the NC price range. NCs are championed by Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and IBM.
NC proponents, led by Oracle chairman Larry Ellison, say their devices will provide even more cost and time savings than Net PCs.