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NC plans for Intel, MS slated

Intel and Microsoft are expected to detail their newest technologies for networked business PCs this week.

Intel (INTC) and Microsoft (MSFT) are expected to detail their newest technologies for networked business PCs this week.

Intel is expected to details its plans for the NetPC, while Microsoft is looking to debut its "zero administration" initiative.

The NetPC platform materialized in response to pressure from other vendors proposing low-cost network computers. Those vendors include Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and IBM.

The NetPC is based on a server-centric architecture where the server computer handles software upgrades and management automatically. The NetPC is expected to be a relatively stripped-down PC with no floppy drive and designed in many cases as a "sealed" computer, implying that maintenance is carried out remotely.

The NetPC will accommodate designs for both Pentium and Pentium Pro processors, Intel said. At the low end, a Pentium-based NetPC might be targeted at task-oriented workers, such as data entry clerks. At the high end, a Pentium Pro or Pentium II-based NetPC might be aimed at stock analysts or a person doing financial modeling, according to Intel.

Intel says it intends to construct the building blocks of the NetPC, including chipsets and motherboards. (Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.)

The NetPC platform has won broad industry support from leading PC vendors such as Compaq, Dell Computer, Digital Equipment, Gateway 2000, and Hewlett-Packard. Some, like HP and Compaq, have already announced their intention to bring out products based on the platform.

In conjunction with this platform, Microsoft is launching the zero administration initiative for Windows targeted at reducing the cost of PC administration at corporations.

The initiative calls for cost-reducing technologies, such as having the operating system update itself automatically when the computer is booted. Other features might include allowing users to roam between different PCs while maintaining full access to their data, applications, and customized environment.

These functions will be built into Windows 95 and Windows NT Workstation operating systems and will be fully implemented in upcoming versions of these operating systems, Microsoft has said.