>Net boxes lose some luster
>From: PC Week
>A fashionable staple of conversation still making the rounds in the salons
>of the chattering classes is about to fall out of vogue.
>Maybe not today or tomorrow. But soon.
>Thanks to an expertly orchestrated public relations effort, the
>conventional wisdom was that it was only a matter of time before the
>computer industry embraced the Network Computer. Remember the pitch about
>how these cool $500 boxes would unshackle the
>industry from the Gates-Grove yoke? No longer would computer users need to
>pay through the nose for Microsoft's operating
>systems or Intel's microprocessors. The network was the world, and the
>world was the network. Best of all, it was all going to be
>Pass the hat and say amen, brother.
>Compelling stuff, sure, and those latter-day evangelists for the NC,
>particularly Oracle's Larry Ellison and Sun Microsystems'
>Scott McNealy, did a remarkably effective job whipping up expectations.
>Should their vision come true, PC vendors stand to lose a sizable part of
>their franchise. Why would right-minded customers shell
>out several thousand dollars for systems--which are guaranteed to become
>obsolescent within three years--when they can acquire a
>relatively inexpensive front end to the Java-ized world of the Internet?
>Ironically, the NC phenomenon also offered a chance to
>make good on the ballyhooed promise of personal computing for a mass
>audience (gutting Microsoft in the process.)
>But timing is everything. When the initial run of NCs rolls off the
>production lines this fall, corporate users will find the market
>already awash with full-featured Pentium systems from top 10 PC makers
>that list for between $1,100 and $1,200.
>It's aleady happening. Earlier this week, IBM rolled out the PC 340, which
>is priced from $1,198. Time was when you'd naturally
>expect a computer for that price to be a real dog. But this system
>includes a 100MHz or 133MHz Pentium, 8M bytes of RAM, an
>850M-byte drive and a 64-bit PC-based accelerator. The machine also comes
>with remote system management software. And most
>important, it's from IBM, not Swifty's PC Shop!
>Compaq and NEC also introduced low-priced Pentium systems that are
>similarly loaded to the hilt. Though Hewlett-Packard's
>Vectra XM series starts at $1,513 for a 75MHz with integrated Ethernet and
>remote management features, it won't be long before
>the company knocks prices down a few pegs to be more competitive.
>Other PC vendors will follow in tow as the industry heads into the fall
>selling season. Wintel machines have been dropping prices
>and increasing in capability for some time, and there's a temptation to
>chalk this up as same old, same old. True enough, but
>there's no longer a significant price delta between a low-end system and
>the NC. (Quite frankly, when all is said and done, a
>reasonably outfitted network computer will probably come closer to $750.)
>Network Computer proponents argue that it's wrongheaded to focus on the
>pricing issue, saying they intend to focus on issues like
>ease of use and the fact that the NC is network and server based. At the
>same time, they point to the documented problems--and
>expense--associated with upgrading PCs.
>"All these make valid reasons for the NC," said an Oracle executive.
>Perhaps, but the argument made more compelling sense earlier this year
>before the latest crop of power machines arrived on the
>scene. Things could still get interesting if telecom and cable providers
>enter the fray and distribute NC products as part of their
>basic service offerings to customers. But when it comes to the corporate
>world, the old fat client vs. thin client debate has been
>overtaken by current events.
>By Charles Cooper
>Copyright =A9 1995, Ziff-Davis Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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