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NEC Fattens Thin Client Performance

A thin client  that outperforms a typical desktop PC? It depends on load balancing and how the network is configured, but NEC said its new thin clients offer performance at least equal to that of a PC in a complete range of applications, including multimedia.

NEC , well known for its displays and consumer electronics, is making its first push into the thin client market in the U.S. with its Virtual PC Center (VPCC). The VPCC is a complete solution featuring an Intel Xeon-based server and thin client hardware, as well as virtualization software from VMware and thin client operating system licensed from market leader Wyse. The system is designed to run Microsoft's Windows XP with support for Vista due in the next month.

Like other thin client solutions, there is almost no boot time and users can log in from any client on the network to get their complete set of applications and data files.

"Thin clients have been relegated to CRM, ERP and other applications where audio and video aren't required," Ken Hertzler, NEC's director of Virtual PC Center, told internetnews.com. "But today, whether it's PowerPoint or other applications, everyone's running multimedia."

The NEC US100 thin client is a palm-sized device that can sit on the desktop or be attached behind an LCD screen. Video files are decoded locally by the US100, which includes graphics acceleration and the NetClient processor from ServerEngines.

"Multimedia performance is a real differentiator here," Bob O'Donnell, IDC research director for clients and displays, told internetnews.com. "The US100 can handle real time video and Voice Over IP (VoIP) apps that traditional thin clients can't because they can't handle the bandwidth.

"Everyone talks about the great return on investment of thin clients, but that's after they've been deployed," noted O'Donnell. He said that besides HP, NEC is the only other major company to offer a complete thin client solution. "IT departments want a central point of support and control. If you want to move to thin clients, a complete solution can make it a more seamless transition.

Because thin clients are centrally managed, they offer significant savings in support costs over a typical PC network.

NEC's thin client system was first developed in Japan to help companies there deal with increased government regulation and compliance issues. "The Japanese government is worried about security risks," said Hertzler. "Someone can walk out with a notebook computer containing sensitive information and there are the virus and hacking issues. Data is much more secure in the hands of IT."

With mandatory compliance regulations rising in the U.S. (Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPPA, etc.) NEC thinks the timing for the VPCC is good. Hertzler said NEC is also developing a thin client mobile device.

The VPCC system is available in either 20- or 50-user configurations at $19,500 and $44,900 respectively.

Wyse Extends Thin Client Family

Wyse Technology announced the release of the Wyse V10L, the latest in its thin client family and, the company promises, the fastest client it has released. It's based on VIA's Eden C7 processor, an x86 clone that runs at up to 2.0Ghz. Its power consumption, however, is minimal compared to a PC, from 14 to 60 watts, compared with 36 to 250 watts for a standard desktop PC.

The V10L uses the Wyse Thin OS (VTOS), which is around 1MB in size and boots in eight seconds. It comes with standard built-in support for Citrix Presentation Server, Microsoft Terminal Services and desktop virtualization capabilities for Citrix, Microsoft, and VMware products.

Switching from a PC to thin clients means, on average, a 40 percent reduction in hardware costs, a 29 percent reduction in IT costs and an 88 percent reduction in worker downtime, according to an IDC report on thin computing customers.

Jeff McNaught, chief marketing officer for Wyse, said thin computing has a six to seven percent penetration of the corporate desktop market, so there is room to grow. "There are still some things we need to address to accelerate growth beyond current position," he told internetnews.com.

Specifically, there needs to be a narrowing of the gap in performance between the thin client and a PC. That, he said, was addressed in the V10L, which is twice as fast as older Wyse thin clients. The V10L also comes with the faster new VTOS and support for USB 2.0 hardware.

The Wyse V10L is shipping immediately for $349 and completes the company’s V-class product line. The VL product line includes models based on Windows CE, XP Embedded, Wyse Linux and now the Wyse Thin OS operating system.

Senior Editor Andy Patrizio contributed to this article.