Here's the skinny: thin is in

Selling the value proposition of thin client computing is a constant battle, according to Stevan Caldwell, but one worth rolling up his sleeves for and convincing resellers and end users about.

“People are just in the habit of buying PCs – making it like an addiction,” he said.

And they don’t often consider alternatives or a combination of mixing a thin and fat client environment.

“They need to view their architecture in a different way,” he said.

Government, retail, education, manufacturing, distribution, finance and a whole host of other vertical markets were ripe for the technology, he said.

To get the message out, Wyse recently rolled out a targeted vertical marketing campaign that dishes out the benefits of selecting a thin client environment instead of a client-server architecture.

Caldwell, regional marketing manager for Oceania, has a channel background at Compaq and Digital, and has seen his fair share of market twists and turns. Now he’s applying his repertoire to steering channel initiatives at Wyse.

Away from the merger and acquisition action and steeped in the thin client computing realm, Caldwell said the most significant move to play out at Wyse in the past few months was the rollout of a new channel program, which aimed to bring a more structured approach to the company’s channel operations.

Given the thin client realm was projected to bulge by about 20 per cent in Asia-Pacific, Caldwell said the company needed to reorganise channel operations in a bid to reflect market dynamics.

And the push was on to educate the channel and end-users about the benefits of jumping into the not-so-skinny world of thin-client computing.

Wyse competed against HP and Sun, among others, in this space, he said. HP captured about 11 per cent of the market while Sun rakes in five. Neoware is ahead of HP with about 16 per cent of the market, according to the Butler Group. Wyse captures almost 42 per cent of the pie. Caldwell said the main technology benefits associated with thin client computing included continuous operations, central management, and enhanced data security (virus protection).

Having affordable access to information and driving down costs was vital, he said.

“We’re getting a much better grounding of where Wyse fits into the picture,” Caldwell said.

He said it made sense anywhere there was a Citrix- or Microsoft Windows-based environment because the applications were server-based.

Zeroing in on its positioning, he said users could access standard Windows applications by running their PC desktop packages centrally on a Windows Mainframe server running operating systems such as Microsoft Windows 2000 or Citrix MetaFrame.

Thin client computing could also access Web-based applications using HTML/XML or Java, he said. Applications and data were hosted on central servers and were connected via the Web. The technology could also access legacy green screen applications.

The trick was to get clients to think beyond a straight PC mentality. Resellers can peddle three types of products, ranging from what the company calls simple Windows-based terminals (for accessing server-based Windows applications) to powerful terminals (which offer a local Web browser in addition to the simple features) and flexible terminals (based on Microsoft Windows NT Embedded or XP Embedded operating systems plus Linux).

Caldwell said the thin client message was getting through to some people. Recent Wyse customer wins included the Hurstville City Council, which chose Wyse Winterm devices for use in its Central Library complex. The PC environment required constant repairing, rebuilding and upgrading, he said — a thin client solution was deployed to reduce maintenance time.

This year, the company would also heavily push the security benefits associated with deploying thin client computing — a huge market play is the government sector, he said.

On the security front, users were better able to deal with viruses including the recent cyberspace nasty MyDoom, Caldwell said. The fact that viruses take residence in PCs as a host was causing some enterprises to rethink the nature of the client server network.

In addition to security benefits, he said support costs were also lower, with some users saving as much as 70 per cent.

He said Wyse was wrapping its strategy around the market trends. The company also planned to peddle its thin client technology to the notebook world.

“It’s just like a tablet PC — it takes a Wyse card — and is ideal for warehouse stock taking and in hospitals,” Caldwell said.

And while he predicted the market would grow, he admitted it was a specialist market.

“It’s definitely a niche application,” Caldwell said.