In an effort to bring more of its thin-client know-how to market, Wyse Technology has packaged its technology into a single chip and reference design, and is looking for partners to bundle the product into their PC hardware.
Wyse Wednesday announced the NetClient system-on-chip, designed with partners NEC and ServerEngines. The chip empowers a hardware device to gain basic PC functionality, including local processing of graphics, video, audio and security. Compared to traditional desktops, thin-client computers can improve a company's IT security and manageability because they draw their storage and processing ability from a remote server or data center, instead of keeping those valuable assets on every employee's desk.
One of the first customers will be NEC, which said Monday it would use the chip in a new platform, the US$100 desktop terminal. The device provides high audio and video quality in a palm-size box while reducing power consumption by 60 percent compared to conventional business desktops. NEC is selling this desktop terminal (without monitor or peripherals) for US$439 in Japan and Europe now, and in North America by the first quarter of 2007.
NEC's product runs on the Wyse Thin OS, the centerpiece of Wyse's new Reference Platform for Enterprise Desktop Virtualization. This platform is the first of a planned series of reference platforms, and is designed to support Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) from VMware.
Streamlined for small platforms, the Wyse Thin OS takes up less than 2M bytes of space, and boots in less than five seconds. Other platforms using the operating system include Wyse's own 1125SE, 1200LE and S10 thin clients.
VMware created much of the software behind server virtualization, and is now trying to push that same philosophy into the desktop market. In April, the company founded an industry group called the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Alliance, intended to unite software and hardware providers behind the effort. Along with Wyse, other members include Sun Microsystems, Citrix Systems, ClearCube Technology, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.
Wyse's new reference platform is one of the first fruits of the alliance, and could enable the rapid introduction of new hardware platforms for enterprise customers, VMware President Diane Greene said in a statement.
The time is right to launch this platform, because the upcoming release of Microsoft's new Vista OS will force many IT managers to assess inexpensive thin-computing platforms instead of upgrading their PCs to meet Microsoft's requirements for powerful memory and graphics capabilities, said John Kish, president and chief executive of Wyse.
Wyse's NetClient system-on-chip uses six processing cores to perform video compression and decompression on the chip. That means it can support up to 32 streams of video displays and voice VOIP ( voice over Internet Protocol). Already, hardware vendors are looking for ways to use the technology in education, where it could allow an entire classroom of students to communicate over WiMax networks.
Network providers and device manufacturers are also testing NetClient chips, but the greatest market opportunity probably lies with content providers, who see thin-computing networks as a gateway to a large new audience, Kish said.
Those companies will experiment first in developing countries, where a thin-client device could be the only monitor in a house, funneling Internet service, television and games through a single display. This approach could achieve great success in comparison to complex and expensive media center PCs that promise to process and store that data in every user's living room.
Instead, a cable or satellite provider will bundle content with storage, sending each consumer a single bill at the end of the month. Many consumers already use this model when they share photos on HP's Snapfish site or store text files on Google's Google Docs Web-based word processing program, Kish said.
China Telecom and Korea Telecom are already running trials with NetClient-powered devices. Major sales of the Wyse system-on-a-chip will probably begin in Asia in 12 to 18 months, followed by Europe and then the U.S. within three to five years.
"Our goal is to get this as inexpensive as possible, and we will make money on the software stack that is necessary to run the chipset," Kish said.