Sun Microsystems made a jamboree entry into the world of network computing yesterday with the launch of its highly anticipated Javastation thin client device.
The new machines, designed to trim computer administration costs, start at $742 for models with a keyboard and mouse but no monitor, with complete packages costing between $995 and $1,565 for 14 and 17-inch monitors respectively. Higher powered than expected, the Javastation runs of a 100MHz Microsparc processor, with a minimum of eight megabytes of main memory. Like other NCs, it is designed to pull down most applications and data, as required, across the Internet, from corporate servers, rather than having significant local storage.
Despite previously presenting the NC as a home consumer device, Sun now says the Javastation is primarily aimed at Fortune 1000 companies that want to reduce overheads on desktop machines. Sun claims the machine will reduce the desktop cost of ownership to as little as one-third of a PC's running costs, which the Gartner Group says run to at least $10,000 on average. However, Microsoft pre-empted the announcement the day before when it announced its own 'zero maintenance initiative' to cut cost of ownership of Intel PCs.
Robert Sakakeeny, analyst at The Aberdeen Group, believes there is a huge demand for something like the NC within corporations that he visits, but he said: ?If there is any weakness in the offering it is that there are very few applications available for the platform.?
To combat this situation in the short term Sun?s Javasoft unit is offering a free package of email, calendaring, name directory and ?limited browser? applications, bundled with the new machines under the name Hot Java Views 1.0.
The company has also showcased a number of applications from vendors such as Oracle, Corel, Applix and Sanga International. Oracle, the pioneer of the NC concept, supported the Sun launch with the announcement that all its applications are now Java-enabled to run with browsers, and that the full advantages of this, in terms of ease of use and low overheads, would be achieved by using browsers on NCs.
Corel and Lotus are both creating stripped-down Java versions of their PC office suites with the NC in mind. Significantly too, Insignia Solutions' NTrigue tools will be bundled with the Javastation, allowing it to run Windows and NT applications via an NT server.
John Fowler, Javasoft?s engineering manager for client products, admitted the Hot Java software has limitations compared to PC packages. For instance, it will be effective only for very short email messages and can only be used for Lan communications. ?The NC itself does not have dial-up capability,? said Fowler. Sun?s entry into the NC market marks a clear effort by the company to defend its core server business from the threat of powerful PCs. It accompanied the launch of the Javastation with a new family of Netra Web servers optimised for Java applications. The Netra J machines, which range in price from $8,000 for 50-100 clients to $120,000 for more than 1,000 clients, include Javastation management software, network connectivity, network services developer tools, Netra server management tools as well as Javastation applications from Corel, Applix and Oracle.
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