By John G. Spooner  |  Posted 2006-05-08 Print this article Print

-Client Parade"> Thin-Client Parade

As those models emerge, vendors including AMD and Intel; systems builders such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lenovo and Wyse; and software makers such as Ardence and VMware are all eyeing thin clients in some way.

HP, IBM and Lenovo all offer blades than can emulate desktops, for example. IBM—whose Virtualized Hosted Client uses VMware and Citrix software—and Lenovo work with ClearCube, to a certain extent, while HP offers both a line of more traditional thin clients and a blade desktop product of its own.

Dells diskless PC bundles transform a desktop such as its OptiPlex GX260 into a box that processes data locally but retrieves its operating system and data from remote servers and storage gear.

Even more pure thin-client vendors, such as Wyse, are changing with the times.

Traditionally a hardware company, Wyse is now betting on software, including inking a deal with virtualization software company VMware.

Virtualization will help deliver so-called virtual desktops, which contain a persons operating system, applications and data, to the screens of company employees, regardless of the type of hardware or software a company is using, Kish said.

VMware, for its part, is also seeking a larger role in the thin-client space by creating a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Alliance that includes companies such as IBM, HP and ClearCube. VMware wants to apply its software to help numerous devices work together more smoothly. It believes its work can remove uncertainties about thin clients, such as the question of how decentralized an enterprise wants to be.

Wyse also continues to develop new hardware. It is preparing what it says is an inexpensive desktop client based on a single chip. The machine is due in the third quarter, Kish said.

Combining virtualization and low-cost hardware can ultimately replace a desktop for about a third of the cost, Kish said.

Not everyone agrees, however, about what kind of low-cost hardware that should be.

"Really what youre trading is centralization versus decentralization. You can be totally centralized, which is a blade solution. You can be totally decentralized, which is the traditional desktop. Or you can be in-between," Locker said.

The in-betweens involve centralizing all applications and data but allowing PCs to access them—not unlike Dells Ardence bundle—or only centralizing the data and keeping the applications where they were—on PCs.

"I think the lowest-cost solution is decentralized low-cost desktops with centralized data," Locker said.

Next Page: Too much variety.

John G. Spooner John G. Spooner, a senior writer for eWeek, chronicles the PC industry, in addition to covering semiconductors and, on occasion, automotive technology. Prior to joining eWeek in 2005, Mr. Spooner spent more than four years as a staff writer for CNET, where he covered computer hardware. He has also worked as a staff writer for ZDNET News.

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