HOT TOPICS IN PRINT
1. Network Computers
2. Year 2000 Crisis
3. Internet Commerce
4. Operating Systems
5. Object Technology
After a sustained period of domination, the Internet has finally relinquished its grip on the Hot Topics list, Business Computer World's analysis of the most talked-about IT areas produced with the help of research firm Spikes Cavell.
True, Internet commerce is holding on at number three, two places down from last month. And coverage of Network Computers inevitably includes TCP/IP and the likelihood of the NC becoming the Net access point for the home.
The year 2000 problem is a steady climber, up three places at number two. It remains to be seen whether NC releases from Corel, and further tweaking of Java standards will keep it off the top spot next month.
Certainly, the profile of 'Y2K' has swelled incredibly since the Autumn.
And although the media hype has probably increased because we are near the end of the year, it isn't expected to disappear from the list for some time.
Storage has dropped out of the chart, and been replaced by operating systems, in with a bullet at number four. New versions of Windows (well, the announcement of features sets for next year and the handheld Windows CE) and OS/2 have caused a stir.
Object technology has crept up one place to number five, while micro-chips have slipped from two to six in the chart. Interest in this peaked last month, and while hardware is generally badly represented in the media, it is surprising that rivals to Intel's chip hegemony from companies such as AMD and Cyrix have not generated more media interest.
It has finally made it: the Network Computer has grabbed the number-one slot after two months in the top three. The last month has seen a flurry of activity in the thin client market, and product announcements at Comdex pushed the technology way up in the media's esteem.
One of the key new developments has been Bill Gates' continued war against the non-PC platform, and his announcement of Microsoft's own hybrid, the NetPC. His speech at Comdex was a one-man tirade against NCs, but others in the industry are still backing them.
Chief among these is new NC player, Corel. In the Spring, it is launching a Network Computer with built-in video-conferencing. Sun, Oracle and IBM have also made major moves in this market, while HP and others are keen to prove their NC credentials in case the balloon goes up.
Apart from the product announcements, the main area of interest has been industry politics surrounding the NC. Oracle chief Larry Ellison gets carried away by whatever whim takes his fancy: last month it was his acceptance of Intel chips in an NC; this month, his alliances are shifting again.
Last month's number one, Internet commerce, has helped push the NC up the charts. This is partly thanks to the vision of the NC as the ultimate home appliance. Indeed, the NC in the home still looks a good bet for many of the domestic computer services promised for the 21st century: home shopping, interactive entertainment, video-on-demand and Web TV.
It all boils down to whether or not you believe in thin clients or not.
Larry does, Bill doesn't, and everyone else is hedging their bets.
The server is back, with a strong showing for the thin client model at Comdex, and most of the major IT players are looking to grab a piece of the action. Key to this development is Intel's provision of cheap processing power for heavyweight servers. One of the big six accounting companies has already committed to client-server using Web server technology to create a global intranet.
Infoworld 18 November
LG Electronics, formerly Lucky Goldstar, displays its Network Computer at Comdex. Running the Java OS, the machine will cost about $600 to $700 and goes into mass production in March.
Newsbytes 20 November
Wyse Technology plans to sell and install 70,000 NCs by the end of March 1997. The Winterm units will be distributed by Metrologie and Logitek.
Meanwhile, Digital chairman Robert Palmer confirms the company will not manufacture NCs.
PC Dealer 20 November
Divisions break out in the NC market. Compaq, Dell, Digital, Gateway 2000, Hewlett Packard, Packard Bell, NEC and Texas Instruments are supporting the Microsoft-Intel NetPC, which will run on a Windows OS. However, Apple, IBM, Netscape, Oracle and Sun are sticking by the NC Reference Profile 1 machine (running Java). But IBM is giving its fullest backing to its own Network Station from the AS/400 stable. Sun also announces its Netra range of Java servers.
Network News 20 November
The NC is predicted to be one of the technologies to watch in 1997.
Once they are allied with Java, NCs can challenge Windows by offering a cross-platform applications solution. If a program is written for the NC, it should be able to run on anything, so businesses will love them.
Windows Sources 20 November
Andre Thi Truong, the 'father of the microcomputer', announces the NPC 97, a Windows-running NC. But his company, APCT, is looking for manufacturing and distribution partners. The NPC 97 boots from an integral CD-ROM drive which also carries applications, has 16Mb of RAM, built-in audio and should cost about $500.
Newsbytes 21 November
Wyse Technology's Winterm 4000 wins the Byte magazine 'Best System' at Comdex. This thin client runs Java, but, it is claimed, bridges the gap between the NC and the Windows platform. This is imaginatively titled a 'best of both worlds' strategy.
Business Wire 21 November
Cost of ownership remains the key part of the NC debate, but Meta Group's Jack Gold claims that the NC will only offer cost-benefits as a replacement for older X terminals, and not PCs. Many companies will also have to face the fact that NCs will demand far more bandwidth than the current PC-type installations.
Computerworld 22 November
IT departments need NCs like a hole in the head: users like PCs and feel empowered by having power on the desktop. The impetus for NCs comes from cost-conscious chief executives and manufacturers jealous of Microsoft's and Intel's success with PCs. And anyway, most companies are now geared up to give users power, and IT departments know how to support a PC environment.
Computerworld 22 November
The new IBM Network Computer division will not create internal divisions with its PC business. IBM, claims chief executive Lou Gerstner, aims to lead both markets. Application development remains key for the success of the technology, and IBM estimates that NCs will be worth $250bn in the potential $800bn computer market.
Report on IBM 22 November
Compaq is not yet ready to enter the NC market. This is because the company lacks infrastructure, the market is unprepared and there are no clear standards. But bandwidth restrictions will prevent early adoption, both at home and in the business environment.
Newsbytes 25 November
Novell reckons it can keep a slice of the software infrastructure market despite the arrival of NCs. Analysts claim Novell is wary of losing ground to Microsoft and to missing the NC boat. Some industry commentators believe that Novell's perception of itself at the heart of the networked world is a major stumbling block to success.
Communications Week 25 November
Corel's NC, running the Java Virtual Machine and shipping with Corel Office and video-conferencing hardware, will be available in the first quarter of 1997. A built-in modem (or Ethernet card), PC-Card slots and integral audio will round out this machine which costs less than $1,000.
Computer Retail Week 25 November
The NC revolution has spurred PC vendors to address cost of ownership (COO): Decision One Corp has developed 1 to One, which measures COO and helps businesses tackle high costs. Phoenix Technologies is working with vendors to provide self-healing technology to cut support costs.
Computer Reseller News 25 November
Sun still hasn't developed a complete range of hardware and software to support its thin-client revolution. There are development plans in progress, but there are holes in its strategy. There isn't even a standard browser which meets Sun's own requirements. But 1997 versions of the Java Station may well go the whole way with the micro Java chip.
Electronic Engineering Times 25 November
IBM will ship a portable NC, nicknamed the Think Client, in the first quarter of 1997. It will have a hard disk, however. This signals Big Blue's desire to produce a range of NC-type machines from palmtop to consumer devices.
PC Week 26 November
Barclays Bank may adopt the NC as its new desktop standard after buying 1,500 Explora Pro machines from NCD. The NCs would replace the bank's existing 16,000 X terminals.
Network News 27 November
AT&T has ordered 2,500 Sun River XLC NCs worth $5.3m. The units will be customised to meet the telecom company's call centre requirements.
M2 Presswire 29 November
Compass Group will distribute the u650 NC from former X terminal vendor, HDS. The device, called @workstation, will be sold through VARs which have UNIX and NT experience.
Var World 30 November
The NC is not only giving an extra dimension to the server, it is also creating new markets for networking. Vendors of networks need to get up to speed quickly so they can offer companies the right mix of technologies.
Var Business 1 December
National Semiconductor is using its X86-like embedded-processor range to develop an NC. The company hopes to incorporate many of the core functions of the NC (DRAM, ISA bus and PCMCIA controllers and serial communications) on one chip, and thereby bring down production costs.
Electronic Engineering Times 2 December
Hewlett Packard will launch its NetPC in the spring. HP has also developed its own PC Common Operating Environment. This is used to configure systems with drivers and software updates, and should help lower ownership cost.
It places HP firmly in the Microsoft camp of trying to solve the high cost problem but keeping PC power. The NetPC will run at 133MHz with 16Mb of RAM. It will also use personal smart-card technology so users can define their environment, wherever they log on.
Computer Reseller News 2 December
There are concerns about not using thin clients in some parts of the corporate environment. Users with NT running Office 97 don't know how 'fat' their client needs to be. Microsoft is banking on cheap memory and is preparing thin versions of some of its key programs. So it should stay on top whatever the outcome of the NC debate.
Computer Reseller News 2 December
Network Computer Inc, a subsidiary of Oracle, has provided NC blueprints for a number of manufacturers, including Acorn, RCA, Akai Internet Connection, Funai Electric. Prices range from $300 to $500 for the boxes.
Telecomworldwire 4 December
Whether you pick NC or fat PC, the key requirement is for more bandwidth. Predicting bandwidth needs is the a difficult job. ATM, high-speed LAN switching and 100Mbits/sec should be high on your list of technologies. NCs will also increase storage demands for servers massively.
Computerworld 5 December
Sun's new micro Java chips will help NCs become faster when handling Java applications, but could also be used in consumer electronics, such as mobile phones. The more expensive ultra Java chip will also offer multimedia functions to the NC.
Interactive Daily 6 December
Mitsubishi Electric's MonAMI/NC, a tiny machine measuring 126x126x38mm, uses an Intel DX4 running Java OS with 16Mb of RAM.
Information Week 9 December
Are NCs just dumb terminals, born again? There's seldom any new ideas in IT. Java is just re-hashed programming languages from long ago. It remains to be seen whether corporate users will agree that PCs are too complex now. The reality is that the PC and the NC both have something to offer different types of user.
Software Futures 9 December
Shares in Electronic Data Processing jump 26 per cent as it decides to move out of the hardware market and focus on software and services.
But its commitment to the NC as a database interrogation front-end and its use of Java also boost confidence in the company.
Computergram 10 December.
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