Compaq thins out its strategy

Compaq Computer will finally step into the thin-client ring later this year when the world's largest PC maker unveils its first Windows-based Terminal product.

According to Mike Winkler, senior vice president and group general manager of PC products at Compaq, the company will introduce a Windows-based Terminal running Windows CE in September.

The move underscores the changes the PC market is currently undergoing given the effect of the Internet on traditional client/server computing.

"We believe it is a viable market and that we have to have an offering," Winkler said of the thin-client market. "There is an Internet-appliance model and it can be a very attractive alternative [to the PC]."

But Compaq will not be stopping with a Windows-based Terminal. The PC giant is also planning "purpose-specific" PCs, designed for targeted users.

One such product is an Office 2000-specific PC, intended to serve basic office-productivity applications without the superfluous functionality of a general-purpose PC. Terming the products "office appliances,"Compaq intends to shave costs off of systems by stripping out unnecessary hardware and software.

"There won't be just one kind of thin client," Winkler added.

Compaq's vision of the network of the future is one in which a variety of devices share access to the network, delivering functionality for disparate types of end-users. WinCE handhelds, thin clients, and full-function PCs will all reside on one network throughout an enterprise. But according to Winkler, that type of network requires infrastructure and bandwidth that are not yet available.

"The backbones of today won't serve that environment," Winkler said.

The highly anticipated Windows 2000 Server product expected from Microsoft by the end of the year will likely spur mixed-client environments. Windows 2000 will include multiuser thin-client support as part of the core OS.

Despite its financial woes, Compaq continues to churn out new products, such as a thin-and-light notebook and the Aero 8000 WinCE handheld, which were introduced last month.

But Compaq is also stepping up its efforts to reassure its customer base that it is stable and has a viable long-term strategy.

Beginning this week, the company is sending written correspondence to customers and mobilising a force of salespeople to visit large accounts and spell out its vision.

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