IBM's Personal Computer division has killed off plans for an NC (Network Computer) in an effort to avoid overlap with its AS/400 division.
The PC division will instead focus on making NC devices easy to manage and support the Network Station design unveiled by IBM's AS/400 group last month, said sources familiar with the plans.
News of the strategy change emerged as Sun was preparing to announce its long awaited NC, as revealed in PC Week last week. Industry watchers expect prices to start at around #440. For comparison, price of HDS' recently introduced Network Computer, netOS 2.0, starts at around u650.
IBM has been showing prototypes of an all-in-one design and other manifestations of its InterPersonal Computer. Instead of hardware, the PC division will now focus on server software called LCC (LAN Client Control) which will enable IS administrators to bring robust network functionality to a low-cost PC or a Network Station.
LCC detects when a client is functioning and automatically assigns a TCP/IP address to it, formats the hard drive, installs an operating system and sets up a graphical user environment.
According to sources, IBM may revisit the idea of developing a hardware client for LCC, but it is likely to take the form of an Intel-based low-cost "thin" desktop rather than a device that adheres to the NC Reference Profile.
LCC is expected to become available in December for Windows NT Server 4.0, OS/2 Warp Server and NetWare servers.
While U-turns are usually an embarrassment, this one is actually good news for IBM. It removes duplication of development effort, shows it is possible for different divisions of a huge organisation to talk to one another, and saves customers the agony of deciding whether it should buy an NC from IBM's AS/400 or PC division.
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