Opinions vary on network computer

Opinions vary on network computer

Users eyeing the online world may find it difficult to sort through the growing variety of Internet-access devices. Despite a recent and well-publicised introduction by Oracle, IBM, Sun, Apple and Netscape, not everyone plans to back specifications for the Network Computer (NC).

Currently, Compaq is staying away from NC's. Compaq sources say the company doesn't believe NC systems offer much value to users at the moment. However, Compaq does plan to push Internet connectivity in current and future products.

The $US500 NC is billed as a low-cost alternative to PCs loaded with programs. Many NC systems will be offered to consumers, but some companies, such as Sun, are planning versions for the corporate market. Those systems will likely cost about $US750.

Other PC vendors, such as US-based AST Research, are promoting low-cost PCs as Internet-access devices. The Acer Group, which supports the NC standard, is releasing a sub-$US500 PC for sale outside the US.

Other vendors are opting to retrofit X Window system terminals as network appliances. Those systems are aimed at corporate users who want to connect to the corporate network and the Internet. International Data Corporation predicts about 95 million Internet-access devices will be sold worldwide by 2000. But most of those will be PCs or Internet PCs, not strictly Internet-access devices, according to the research firm.

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