Microsoft is working on the development of a new computing platform which looks set to compete with both the NC and its own NetPC device.
The platform, called Windows Terminal, comprises both hardware and software elements. On the software side, Microsoft will develop a multi-user version of NT Server. It is not yet clear what form the client software will take.
It is also unclear whether Windows Terminal will be able to run the Java VM, which the Oracle/Sun NC can.
On the hardware side, the Windows Terminal will be a thin client machine.
In an internal white paper, Microsoft suggests a typical machine might be configured with 4Mb of ROM and 4Mb of RAM. No processor has been specified at this point, but if the device is a true network computer, it shouldn't matter what processor is inside.
The Windows Terminal will overlap with the NetPC in the sense that it also aims to cut the cost of ownership. However, unlike the NetPC, which is intended to run Windows applications, all the processing on the Windows Terminal will be done on the NT Server.
Microsoft believes the Windows Terminal is the closest the industry has yet come to offering a true, thin client. Speaking at the platform's unveiling at the WinHEC conference in San Francisco last week, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said: "(The Windows Terminal) is the only device that deserves to be called thin, because it doesn't run software that needs changing."
The approach Microsoft is taking with Windows Terminal appears to be similar to that followed by suppliers of multi-user Windows NT systems such as Citrix, where only the user interface functions are handled on the terminal.
Lou Greer, VP of marketing at NCD, a manufacturer of NC devices which licenses Citrix's WinFrame system, welcomed the Windows Terminal in principle, claiming it validated NCD's terminal strategy.
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