With the NetPC market on the verge of exploding from the thrust of Intel and Microsoft, network computer makers are scrambling to better define their products and find their spots on the computing landscape At the behest of NC champions - Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Netscape Communications, IBM, and Apple - The Open Group was asked to develop a more standardised Network Computer Reference Profile in an attempt to reduce confusion in the NC marketplace.
The Open Group will help standardise the NC by testing potential NC devices for compliance with the profile and awarding them an official logo.
"If they are going to get NCs to be widely taken up, and quickly, they need to establish a standard in the market," said Allan Brown, The Open Group's chief operating officer. "You need to have products that are compatible."
The NC market, which Larry Ellison, Oracle's CEO, originally predicted to replace the PC, has shrunk to become the next-generation terminal, according to analysts.
"These machines are mainly for terminal replacement," said Bruce Stephen, an analyst at IDC. "The PC guys have done a good job adding manageability and saving their markets."
If all goes smoothly, The Open Group will be branding NCs by the third quarter, according to Brown. "The end goal is to make sure that all NCs conform to a certain set of standards," Brown said. "We are concerned with the rendition of the information on the screen being the same. That no matter what brand of NC you use, all of the same information still appears."
But the NC market doesn't yet have all of its momentum heading in the same direction, according to analysts.
"Remember, Unix had a great deal of promise, but standardisation didn't work," said Rob Enderle, a senior analyst at Giga Information Group. "Unlike the NetPC, the NC world has a bunch of guys competing with each other trying to come together for a standard. They need someone like Microsoft and Intel to hold it all together."
The Open Group, in the US, can be reached at www.opengroup.org.