Sun, Microsoft make NC progress

Microsoft and Sun are moving their different desktop OS visions to hardware this week.

Microsoft and Sun are moving their different desktop OS visions to hardware this week. The two companies are expected to unveil plans for network computers based on their different operating systems.

Microsoft is announcing a Windows-based reference design for building network computers (NCs), or thin clients. Sources say part of the announcement will be more details of the Simply Interactive PC, introduced at WinHEC earlier this year.

Sun, meanwhile, will take the wraps off its JavaStation thin client at its Java Enterprise Solutions show, in New York.

Microsoft's client will be built with support from a number of partners, including Hewlett-Packard, Compaq and Dell.

Sun's JavaStation will run the JavaOS and will have a TCP/IP connection and the HotJava browser to connect the clients to servers for access to Web pages, applications, databasesand legacy systems, mostly through a variety of third-party applications. The JavaStations will mainly be used as fixed-function devices. Costing US$500 to US$1000, the systems will be equipped with a Sparc-based processor and between 4Mb and 8Mb of RAM. Storage will be optional and monitors and keyboards will not be included.

Most of the power, however, will come from the server side. In addition to slightly enhancing versions of Solaris and Solstice, Sun is planning to introduce a new line of Netra Java Servers specifically for use with the thin clients, sources say, although the clients will work with existing Netra servers.

Sun will also be showcasing a handful of applications from vendors such as Insignia Solutions, Oracle, Corel Applix, and Sanga International. The software runs the gamut from Insignia client-side software enabling the thin clients to run Windows applications, to the Java-based Corel Office for Java, to the Oracle Web Server, sources say.

Sun is also expected to bundle Sanga Pages with the JavaStation, which will allow users to create mission-critical applications on the server. Finished versions of most of the software, including Corel Office for Java and the Oracle Web Server, are not expected to ship until next year.

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