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NCs take Orient Express

Oracle has its sights set on emerging Asian markets for rapid and vast deployments of network computers.

Oracle (ORCL) is planning rapid and vast deployments of network computers (NCs) in several Asian markets, including Japan, China, and Malaysias.

The company plans to ship network computer clients and servers in Japan in mid-April, chairman Larry Ellison let slip during an unrelated press conference today.

Network computers, sometimes called "thin clients," are stripped-down computers that rely on more powerful server computers to run applications and to store data.

"Several hundred" corporate market NCs will be demonstrated at Oracle Open World, the company's developer conference in Japan April 14 to 15. Japanese customers will get their hands on beta machines shortly thereafter when Oracle is expected to ship 1,000 NC clients and 100 NC servers.

In China and Southeast Asia, a boutique pen company called Hartcourt also plans to sell up to 500,000 Network Computer Incorporated (NCI) machines. NCI is an Oracle company.

Hartcourt's Pacific Net project and NCI will work with the Chinese government to link 2.5 million high schools and university classrooms in China to a single intranet.

Hartcourt has also entered an agreement with Malaysian company Camro Technology to install computer labs for more than 6,000 primary and secondary schools there. The national Ministry of Education should wrap up testing of NC prototypes for the schools in mid-February. The first 500 schools will be outfitted by August.

Oracle employees were initially caught off guard by their CEO's apparently surprise comments, but by this afternoon, they were furnishing details. Company representatives said the Oracle Open demo would be for NCs for the corporate market. Consumer NCs will be rolled out by RCA and Zenith in May, said NCI spokesman Randy Brasche.

Oracle had previously announced that manufacturers Acorn Computer Group Akai Digital, Funai Electric, IDEA, Taiwan's Proton Industrial, and Uniden licensed its NC system software.