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Sun shows pleb-ready thin client

Masses can now ignore the future

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At long last, Sun Microsystems has delivered a new set of thin client technology that could well push the slim computing devices into the hands of the average consumer.

Sun today released a new version - 3.0 - of its Sun Ray Server Software which will make it more practical to use thin clients from the home. The software ships with updated bandwidth management and data compression packages that allow Sun's thin clients to run smoothly over standard DSL or cable connections. Thin clients are more typically relegated to offices with very fat pipes that connect back to a company's servers.

Sun has been working on this technology - once named WAN Ray - for a long, long time. What took it so long to deliver the good remains a mystery.

Sun is still targeting schools, large companies and government bodies with its thin clients, saying the products are cheaper, quieter, easier to manage and more secure than standard PCs. Now, however, Sun will also be looking to convince service providers to consider thin clients as options for their customers.

The basic idea is that AOL, for example, could give consumers a thin client for free and then charge monthly fees for its "computing" service. AOL would be able to manage consumers' software from its servers and provide a secure, simple package for people that really just want to surf the internet, check e-mail, message and do a bit of word processing. Consumers would receive a sleek device that runs quiet, and they wouldn't have to worry about hardware upgrades or their legs catching on fire.

The WAN Ray technology is the key piece to making this dream come true.

Ah, isn't dreaming wonderful?

In reality, Sun will likely struggle to convince grandma about the thin client wonder anytime soon. The thin client is as tough a sell as ever, as is evidenced by thin client pioneer NCD's apparent closure.

Still, IDC and others reckon there is growth to be had in the thin client market, and kudos to Sun for keeping hope alive.

Along with its fresh software, Sun has rolled out a real purdy new box. The Ultra-Thin Client 170 has a 17-inch flat panel display and a smart card reader. ®

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