PC manufacturers are getting into the thin-client game in a big way. Companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Compaq have announced thin clients, while traditional big-iron and terminal makers such as IBM are boosting their thin-client offerings.
That's good news for IT managers, who have been chafing at restrictions of existing products, such as low-resolution graphics, limited memory and relatively high prices.
"We still don't think we've found the perfect terminal," said Adam Fogelman, manager of network project services at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation's IT division. "All have some disadvantages for our applications.
Unlike the client/server model, where applications reside on the client and draw data from the server, a thin client's applications and data are usu-ally housed and executed on the server. Thus, thin-client machines need few moving parts and only enough data storage to run the system itself.
Manufacturers have replaced traditional dumb terminals with sleek new clients that can run on platforms such as Windows NT, Windows NT Terminal Server Edition and Linux and other flavours of Unix. The client's operating system may be Windows CE or Linux; they will often use Web browsers to access server-based applications.
IDC estimates that as many as 6 million new thin-client machines will ship by 2003. Gartner Group estimates the number of thin-client seats - including PCs accessing server-based applications - will reach 30 million by 2002.