IBM Corp. next month will begin shipping its Network Station Series 1000 equipped with Lotus Development Corp.'s eSuite WorkPlace software, the companies announced at Lotusphere.
The network computer will cost about US$1,000 and will include an Internet browser, management software, a keyboard, a mouse and 10M bits-per-second Ethernet capabilities. Given such functionality, the Network Stations will not be competing with low-cost PCs because those do not offer as much as much functionality or the range of features as network computers, according to David McAughtry, vice president of marketing for IBM's network computer division.
"You're not talking about (competing with) a thousand dollar cheapo special," he said, adding that the value of network computers is not in price.
"Our real edge is in the simplicity of the management of these devices," McAughtry said.
Network computers, which do not have built-in memory or disk drives and pull in data from network servers, are proving particularly popular with businesses that have workers who do not need the power found in a desktop PC. Banks and other financial institutions, airlines, manufacturing companies and retail businesses have found network computers especially beneficial, he said.
European businesses have been faster to embrace network computers than have U.S. companies, McAughtry said. In the U.S., the machines have appeal, because they are new and Americans like to have the latest technology, while in Europe network computers have caught on because the hardware works well with the management style of information technology administrators there who generally have more control over use and access.
While IBM's version will run without eSuite, McAughtry said the software package, rolled out today to a considerable fanfare from Lotus executives, is a "superb example of what you can do with a Java application" in that environment.
He suggested that besides viewing network computers as thin clients, they also can be seen as Java devices. The latter view is futuristic because the number of applications available for the machines in the Java programming language is limited, McAughtry said, although he predicted that will continue to change.
McAughtry said IBM is working on a network computer contract with a major European company and expects to make an announcement related to that soon. Already, American Eagle airlines has installed a large number of network computers in the U.S. and General Accident, an insurance company in the United Kingdom, also has purchased the machines.
He believes that many more companies will buy upwards of 1,000 network computers for corporate use in the coming months. IBM started to ship the first in its network computer series last month.