[AI] Thin-client Laptops Offer Glimpse of a Diskless Future

Vikas Kapoor dl.vikas at gmail.com
Tue Sep 11 10:06:25 EDT 2007

Thin-client Laptops Offer Glimpse of a Diskless Future
The laptop thin client from Wyse that has no disk drive or fan, a relatively long battery life, and a full-size keyboard.
Patrick Thibodeau, Computerworl that has no disk drive or fan, a relatively long battery life and a full-size keyboard. The device also supports multimedia
and runs silently. It's intended for business use, but analysts said it's the type of device that may be a forerunner of future notebook computers.

The Wyse x90e looks like an ultralight notebook. But it has been designed to work with 3G (third-generation) high-speed cellular networks and Wi-Fi and
to deliver applications via the browser available in the embedded version of 
Microsoft Windows

The Wyse notebook can also be plugged into Ethernet networks. It weighs less than four pounds and includes 512MB of flash memory, which holds the operating
system and any applications that may be added, and an equal amount of RAM. This seems like a small amount of memory, but Wyse officials insist that it's
more than enough to do the job. The RAM is expandable to 2GB. With no spinning parts, fan or disk, battery life can range from five to seven hours.

The notebook thin-client market is new, and vendors are focusing on selling to organizations that already deliver applications from servers to terminals,
such as health care, public safety, schools, retail and financial services -- environments where many workers are using similar applications. But acceptance
by consumers and knowledge workers of thin-client notebooks may expand as wireless networks improve and as 
Google Inc.
, Microsoft Corp. and others develop online application services.

"All the things that were really necessary are only now reaching a level of adoption that can justify devices depending on them, but it's still a hard sell,"
Bob O'Donnell
, an analyst at IDC.

The thin-client notebooks have a lot of advantages in terms of security and durability. It may be no more difficult to replace a damaged thin-client notebook
than it is to replace a TV set. Thin-client notebooks "may make all the sense in the world from a logical perspective," O'Donnell said, but IT decisions
aren't always based on logic. He also noted that there may be resistance from a PC-focused IT staff, as well as from corporate knowledge workers.
Jeff McNaught

, chief marketing officer at 
San Jose
-based Wyse, said these devices are becoming alternatives for the most demanding group of employees, the knowledge workers. And the company's interest in
supplying a product for the consumer market may grow "as we find ways to make these devices even smaller and easier to use," he said.

Notebook thin clients make up a small amount of the overall thin-client market, and these products are just emerging.

Wyse rival 
Neoware Inc.
 released a portable thin-client notebook, the m100 with a Linux or Windows XPe operating system, one year ago next month. In July, 
Hewlett-Packard Co.
 said it was acquiring 
King of Prussia, Pa.
-based Neoware for US$214 million. The Linux-based system is listed at $759, and the Windows one is listed at $799.

In the consumer market, what could have been one of the first widely available portable thin clients, the Palm Foleo, 
was canceled
 this month by the company. That notebook-like device with a 10-in. screen and full-size keyboard was designed to be a companion to Palm's smart phone.
Ed Colligan

, Palm's CEO, said the company was dropping its Foleo to focus its energies on the next-generation operating system for its handhelds.

For thin-client notebooks to get broader interest, they will also need to make it simple to work disconnected from a network, such as on an airplane. A
Wyse official said the company will have software available this year that will allow a data center administrator to configure some applications to work
on the notebook away from the network.

Broader acceptance of thin-client notebooks will require "both an airplane solution and low-latency wireless coupled with strong back-end services," said

Rob Enderle
, an independent analyst in San Jose. Providing this "requires an 
 like effort but on an even greater scale. It needs to be fully thought through end to end, which is why Google's effort is still in stealth mode -- they
aren't likely to bring it out until all of the parts are fully cooked," he said. 
Google Inc.
 is reportedly working on a device intended to make it easy to use its online applications and search the Web.

Another maker of thin-client notebooks is Neoware neighbor 
Devon IT Inc.
, also in King of Prussia. Devon released its SafeBook thin-client notebook last October. That product, at $799, is Windows XPe-based and is mostly used
by traditional thin-client users but occasionally by consumers, said 
Paul Mancini
, vice president of marketing.

Mancini said consumers who are interested in notebook thin clients typically have their own home wireless networks, and perhaps some children who want Internet
access. But he doesn't see a broader consumer market just yet. Consumers don't "want their stuff out of their control," Mancini said.

Vikas Kapoor,
MSN Id:dl_vikas at hotmail.com, Yahoo&Skype Id: dl_vikas,
Mobile: (+91) 9891098137.

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