Although hardware is still a key part of their businesses, top thin-client vendors are working to expand their software expertise.
New Wyse Technology Inc. President and CEO John Kish came to the San Jose, Calif., company about six months ago after more than 15 years at Oracle Corp. and several years with startups. Most of the new executives Kish has brought in have software backgrounds.
"Wyse is a company looking to extend the architecture," Kish said. "What is a thin client really? What they are is software and hardware, not just hardware."
For its part, Neoware Systems Inc. since the beginning of the year has bought four businesses, including two European-based software companies.
Thin clients are designed to offer businesses better management and security than traditional PCs can and at a lower cost. Desktop devices are linked to back-end servers, which hold key components such as hard drives and processors.
Market research company IDC, of Framingham, Mass., expects the thin-client industry to continue to grow from about 1.78 million units shipped last year to 3.4 million by 2007. While thin clients represent about 2 percent of the overall PC market, that share could grow to as much as 10 percent, said Michael Kantrowitz, chairman and CEO of Neoware, in King of Prussia, Pa.
Software will be key to that growth, Wyse and Neoware officials say.
"The real thing that was growing the market was not the box itself but the flexibility the box could deliver," said Kish, who is looking to double Wyses size in three years.
Wyse is focusing a lot of attention on markets such as India and China that have high adoption rates of new technologies and wireless devices.
For example, Wyse is developing software to bring thin-client capabilities to wireless devices. The idea is to let users and businesses give wireless devices whatever identity they want—at one moment, a cell phone; the next, a game console or a computer—through services offered by telecommunications companies, Kish said. He said he expects to bring such technology back to the United States.
Neoware in January bought TeleVideo Inc.s thin-client business and Mangrove Systems SAS, a Granville, France, maker of embedded Linux offerings. Last month, Neoware bought German vendor eSeSix Computer GmbHs Thintune thin-client business and earlier this month bought Qualystem Technology SAS, of Gentilly, France.
Qualystem offers software that streams Windows operating systems and applications in an on-demand fashion to thin-client devices. Kantrowitz said he plans to bring those capabilities to the United States this year.
Over three years, Keystone Automotive Industries Inc. brought in Neoware thin clients for more than 2,000 users. The result was over $2 million in savings and an easier and more secure environment, said Jesus Arriaga, Keystone vice president and CIO, in Pomona, Calif. "Security is much better because you are controlling security at the server point," Arriaga said.
Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest utility computing news, reviews and analysis.