This week at PC Expo in New York, IBM discussed plans for its Network Station NCs. A number of enhancements were announced, and the company reacted to the launch of Microsoft Terminal Server.
IBM said that, starting in July, all its Network Station NCs will ship with support for Citrix? ICA protocol. This will allow them to access Windows applications running on Citrix Winframe or on Metaframe, Citrix? add-on to Microsoft?s Terminal Server.
Other enhancements for the Network Station family include multiple language support, support for email in the built-in browser and a special model that can be connected to AS/400 Twinax cabling.
IBMs Network Stations are manufactured by NCD. Paul Boulay, worldwide senior strategist in IBM network computer division, said the company is unlikely to produce its own thin clients. ?This is such a price sensitive market," he points out.
IBM has three models in its Network Station family of NCs. The Network Station 100 is essentially a replacement for 3270 or 5250 terminals. The Network Station 300 is a browser based system, while the Network Station 1000 is designed to run Java applications locally.
IBM and Sun announced in April that they would together develop Java OS for Business, which is to be the operating system for both companies? NCs. The OS will be introduced on the high end of the Network Station range early next year, and later spread to other models. It will be tuned to Intel?s Lean Client design ? the same design that is being used by IBM's maunfacturing partner NCD to develop a Windows Based Terminal, the Thinstar 300.
Also at PC Expo, Microsoft rolled out Windows NT Server 4.0 Terminal Server Edition, as the product is now officially called. Paul Boulay said IBM will not develop its own Windows Based Terminal for this software but claimed the current Network Stations with ICA support will be able to compete with WBTs in the multiuser Windows marketplace.
But IBM is not altogether passing by the WBT opportunity. In a deal announced on Tuesday, IBM and Boundless Technologies will jointly market IBM Netfinity servers in combination with Boundless thin clients such as its new Viewpoint TC Windows Based Terminal. ?This is about offering yet another alternative," said Boulay.
?We see Bill Gates? change of view on the merits of thin clients as a good thing," said Boulay. ?But there is always a question mark about their degree of seriousness."
Boulay points out that, a year ago, Microsoft was still heavily pushing the NetPC ? a concept that was soon abandoned. Boulay also said Terminal Server is priced too high, at more than $300 per user (a full NT Workstation license is required for each client).
Boulay said that tens of thousands of Network Stations shipped in 1997. In 1998, it will be hundreds of thousands, he predicts. He believes Java based NCs will start taking off as soon as more Java applications become available.
IBM?s Lotus subsidiary shipped the first version of its eSuite productivity software in February. But while the 1.0 release is currently being used in a number of pilots, Boulay said that eSuite 1.5, expected by September, will be the first version that is ready for broad deployment. The current version, for instance, misses a spelling checker and file filters.
According to Boulay, NCs are well suited for data entry as well as for general office workers. "That?s about 70 per cent of all desktops," he said.
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