Wyse Puts Some Muscle on Thin Client

Like Wile E. Coyote and a boulder sharing an Acme pulley, the thin client and the corporate PC are zooming toward each other from different heights.

The iPAQ from Compaq Computer Corp. (www.compaq.com) exemplifies the trajectory of the PC. Compaq is stripping out standard desktop functionality to optimize the iPAQ for Internet or network-based computing.

From the thin client end, Wyse Technology Inc. (www.wyse.com) this month defined the beefed up approach thin client vendors are adopting with its Winterm 8360SE WinCAT.

The objective from both types of manufacturers is to field a device that deals with current corporate realities. Customers want simple-to-administer, reliable machines that aren’t useless when the spotty corporate networks of today go offline.

Rob Enderle, analyst at Giga Information Group (www.gigaweb.com) defines the market in the negative. "What it looks like the market really wants is not the crippled thin clients of yesterday and not the super-plugged-in clients [of expensive, high-capacity networks]," Enderle says. "The other thing they don’t want is the constant breakage of existing PCs. What they really want is the good stuff from all three of those environments."

"By including the best of all three these offerings really hit it," Enderle says of the iPAQ breed of PCs and the Wyse terminals. "Each one is very close to meeting the requirements that the market has with respect to their existing camps," he says.

Some of today’s requirements will be tomorrow’s limitations, though, as end users elevate some features and ignore others, Enderle says.

Jeff McNaught, vice president of customer marketing at Wyse, says that kind of process led Wyse to its current offering.

"We’ll still sell products that are highly structured for task workers, but we’re finding that companies would like to put these in front of knowledge workers, and they need more functionality," McNaught says.

Discussions with customers revealed that Wyse was too narrowly focused, according to McNaught. "We cleaved the market into two types of devices. Compute devices and display devices. Everybody understood that," he says. "But the largest companies are coming to us today and saying these are the features I want: Thin, reliable hardware; rich Web browsing; fully remote management; local data programs; instant deployment; video frame multimedia; program neighborhood administration; and lower TCO [total cost of ownership]."

Wyse answered with the Winterm 8360SE Windows Custom-Application Terminal or WinCAT. The thin client allows administrators to embed 32-bit Windows applications into the terminal to allow large corporations to customize the terminals for their knowledge workers.

The 8360SE uses Windows NT 4.0 Embedded, features a local Internet Explorer 5.0 browser, and supports the Microsoft Corp. (www.microsoft.com) Remote Desktop Protocol, the Citrix Systems Inc. (www.citrix.com) ICA, and 15 other terminal emulations. Locally booting, the system features 64 MB of Flash RAM, 64 MB of RAM, 10/100 Ethernet, two serial ports, one parallel port, one USB port, and 1,280x1,024 monitor support.

Wyse, however, won’t be jumping to Embedded Windows 2000 when the upgraded operating system arrives. "The reason we chose to use NT 4.0 is because it’s been shaken out," McNaught says. "There’s a very different requirement for reliability for personal computers that is simply not an option in a thin client environment." Mean time between failures is about 175,000 hours for a thin client, compared with 25,000 hours in a PC, he says.

Wyse introduced the 8360SE during the Citrix Solutions Summit in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month. The launch was part of Wyse's "Thinovation" initiative, which also included an entry level thin client with functionality more in line with traditional expectations for the devices. The entry level Winterm 3200LE with its sub-$400 price tag in volume is designed to compete favorably with stripped down PCs. The Winterm 8360SE WinCAT is pricier, starting at about $945.

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