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Boundless to make NCs for NCR

NCR can now offer its core market devices that promise to be less expensive to administer than PCs.

NCR (NCR) is moving into the market for "dumb terminal" replacements with the help of Boundless Technologies (BDLS), which will manufacture a line of network computers for the Dayton, Ohio-based data warehousing giant. The agreement was announced today.

A network computer (NC) is loosely defined as one which relies on a powerful central server for access to data and applications. Boundless will be supplying NCR with NCs that can access Windows, Java, or legacy applications on a central server, depending on the model.

NCR can now offer its core market of retail, financial, and communications companies devices that promise to be less expensive to administer and maintain than PCs. NCs would also offer more capabilities than traditional text terminals, also called dumb terminals for their lack of processing power.

Although some information systems (IS) managers at large corporations are looking at NCs as a replacement for dumb terminal computers--used as simple data entry devices--there appears to be a growing indifference to NCs for applications beyond this. NCs are also advocated by Sun and Oracle.

According to a recent Zona Research survey, one of the biggest problems corporations have with installing network computers is that most IS managers anticipate network traffic (or "bandwidth") problems on the network because applications need to be downloaded to the computer terminal, or client.

While some NCs advocated by Oracle download applications to the client and do most of the processing locally, Boundless, Citrix, and NCD, among others, sell terminals which let the server computer do the processing. By this method, most of the information sent to the client is only related to displaying graphics on a screen, which requires little processing power.

Boundless will make a Java terminal for NCR that downloads Java programs and processes them at the client, but a spokesperson said NCR doesn't expect much demand for those units. Instead, he says most customers will buy the Windows terminals and run Java applications on the server.

Zona's survey of large, medium, and small businesess showed that only 15 percent of the respondents planed to deploy thin-client architectures within the next three years. IS managers also cited a reluctance to deploy NCs because they depend on a network to be able to function, and networks can be an unreliable component of a company's infrastructure.

NCR says it has already done field testing of customized NCs for several customers and expects to roll out larger numbers of devices by early next year.

Under the agreement, Boundless will manufacture network computers that NCR will sell under its own name as part of the new TC 2990 series. NCR will also sell NCR Administrator software, developed by Boundless, which allows system administrators to configure, upgrade, and perform other routine system maintenance from a central location.