Hitachi will begin sales of Net PCs in Japan, where the company hopes they will receive a warmer reception than the concept has been accorded in the United States.
Hitachi goes up against NEC, the largest PC vendor in Japan. In late October, NEC released its first Net PC, as the company began shifting its PC lineup from an aging, quasi-proprietary architecture called PC98 to a conventional Windows-Intel platform.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., some PC vendors have been reluctant to introduce Net PCs. Compaq, Dell, and NEC Computer Systems Division are among the few to introduce a Net PC based on the guidelines spelled out by Intel,Microsoft, and Compaq, while companies such as IBM have scotched plans to roll systems out.
Net PCs are marketed as low-cost, stripped-down corporate PCs that can be managed remotely by server computers in order to save on maintenance costs. Hitachi says installing a new system, for instance, takes five minutes with its management software, a task that normally takes upwards of 30 minutes, it claims.
Hitachi says its Flora 330 Net PC will include a 133-MHz Pentium processor, 32MB of memory, and PC management software for a price of around $1,700, while the Flora 310 with 12.1-inch flat panel display will be priced at around $2,500. Systems management software for a server that allows for managing the PCs is priced at around $1,700 per server.
Japanese computer sales to individuals have slowed sharply this year, a reflection of the country's troubled economy and a new consumption tax. Earlier this week, market research firm International Data Corporation Japan projected that PC sales would rise only 0.1 percent in Japan this year, to 8.1 million units. Still, companies focused on saving money might be lured into using Net PCs.