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Boundless targets dumb terminals

The network computer vendor makes a deal that it thinks will replace dumb terminals with its new "thin clients."

Poor, dumb terminals.

Boundless Technologies has made a deal that it thinks will hasten the end of the simple, cheap boxes used for decades to tap into mainframes.

The company today announced an agreement with Esker, which is now reworking its terminal emulation software to run on the Boundless thin client, the Viewpoint TC Model 100.

Boundless was formerly known as SunRiver Data Systems and was itself traditionally a manufacturer of "dumb" terminals. But it has now parlayed this expertise into making network computers, or "thin clients," as Boundless prefers to call them.

The terminals are called "dumb" because they have very little processing power; nearly all of the computer "intelligence" resides on the mainframe. The thin client is an analagous concept, but generally has a more powerful processor and is usually hooked up to Unix servers rather than mainframes. Still, the conventional wisdom in the PC industry is that thin clients will fill the same niche now served by dumb terminals.

To truly take over for dumb terminals, however, they also have to be able to hook up to mainframes. That's where Esker's software comes in: It lets the Boundless machines "emulate," or pretend, to be dumb terminals so they hook up to mainframes as well as connect to the Net or local corporate servers.

The Boundless Viewpoint line is based on a x86 Intel architecture. The Esker software will work with the Model 100, a network-ready text terminal, as well as the Model 200 for running Windows applications over the network. The terminal emulation software will also run on the Model 300 when it ships later this year, featuring embedded Windows, a built-in Web browser, and Java support.