IBM will release the first of a family of network computers on 28 March, for sale exclusively via the channel.
The Network Station will be based on a 33MHz PowerPC 403 chip and will cost #500, not including a monitor. It will be targeted at the corporate/business market as a dumb terminal replacement and also as a suitable machine for an Intranet environment.
Dave Conway-Jones, IBM's European marketing manager for the Network Computing division, said: ?The dumb terminal market is a large and attractive one and that will be our key focus, but we?re also looking at the Intranet market. We won?t sell the product ourselves, although other divisions of IBM such as consultancy may come up with packages. The first product will be sold exclusively by Vars, dealers and systems integrators.?
The machine runs a stripped-down version of BSD Unix, which includes the Java Virtual Machine, and will have IBM?s Web Explorer as a front end.
At the server level, IBM will also supply users with terminal emulation and windowing software, which runs in 2Mbytes of memory and has already gone into beta.
Additional administration software, however, has only just moved into alpha, but will, over time, be replaced by an offering from Tivoli, IBM?s systems management unit.
IBM has already signed up 20 large, fully supported pilot sites across Europe and is also about to start a beta programme for several hundred smaller companies.
The second member of the Network Station line, due mid-year, is a more powerful 66MHz 403-based model that will be aimed at users wanting to run Java applications on their Network Station, rather than simply browse the Internet or rely on server-based applications.
This will be sold not only via the channel, but also through OEMs.
A third and higher end offering, which is likely to ship in about a year?s time, will be based on the PowerPC 603 is currently the basis of Big Blue?s portables. This will include a smartcard reader and be aimed at both the consumer and business market.
But IBM is also evaluating whether to ship a Network Station aimed purely at the consumer market.
The product is likely to be sold via such OEMs as content providers and include local storage capabilities such as a flash card or flash memory - because of the problems of booting up over a telephone line - a built-in modem and TV ouput.
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