Thin-client vendors are showing off lots of new wares at this week's iForum conference show being sponsored by Citrix.
The most dramatic news isn't a formal announcement but some quiet demonstrations and briefings by PC giant Compaq. Compaq, whose executives not long ago echoed the thin-client derision shown by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, is showing its first desktop thin-client product lines. In October the company will release two thin desktops designed to display applications that are running on multiuser NT servers.
One is a small box that hosts Microsoft Windows CE operating system as well as Microsoft's RDP and Citrix Systems's ICA protocols for connecting to the remote hosts. The second will feature the Linux operating system and host a Web browser right on the client, something Microsoft's Window CE licensing for thin desktops forbids. Under Windows CE licensing, the client must use a browser that runs on the server.
Prices for the new line will be competitive with rival products.
In other news, GraphOn of Campbell, Calif. will make the first public showing of its jBridge software. Software vendors can use jBridge software to turn their applications into multiuser programs that can run on the standard Microsoft NT Server 4.0 operating system.
By contrast, most Windows-based terminals today access a modified version of NT: either Citrix's WinFrame or Windows NT Server 4.0 Terminal Server Edition (TSE), which incorporates the main part of the Citrix software. The upcoming Windows 2000 release will include TSE as a standard part of the operating system.
GraphOn bought the then-unfinished software from it's designer, Corel Computer. It works by loading a small piece of code onto each client device. The rest of the code is incorporated into the actual application, which then becomes accessible by a range of users at the same time.
GraphOn executives say jBridge is in the last stages of beta testing at about six sites. It will ship around the time of the Fall Comdex show. Pricing will be announced at that time.
IBM will extend its thin-client hardware line with two new models, the NetworkStation 2200 and 2800. Both use Intel-based microprocessors instead of the PowerPC chip used in the earlier models. IBM is claiming a better price-performance ratio for the new models.
The 2200 is a low-end thin client, with a bundle of terminal emulators so it can work with mainframe and Unix-based applications in addition to NT-based ones.
The 2800 is IBM's new high-end thin client. It includes two half-length PCI card slots for additional peripherals and can run Java applications locally.
The 2200 and the 2800 have built-in support for Ethernet and Token Ring LANs.
In addition, IBM is releasing a new version of its NetworkStation Manager software for managing and configuring the desktop devices. The new version has graphical user interface Netscape Communicator 4.5, a new high-performance Java Virtual Machine.