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Old hands create new software biz

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Exclusive This year started with a major member of the thin client market missing. Onetime high-flyer NCD (Network Computing Devices) has met its end and done so with no fanfare at all.

NCD officials still refuse to take any calls regarding the company's fate. This silence has been NCD's policy since The Register first discovered that the computer maker was going under. A call, however, this week to one of NCD's US numbers did help explain what has happened to the firm.

Five former NCD employees have started a new software-only company called ThinPath Systems. We talked this week to just about every one of the staffers, but none of them wanted to say too much. They would say that Thin Path - formerly the brand name of NCD's thin client software - will continue to operate in some way, shape or form. It will leave actual thin client hardware to the likes of Wyse and Sun Microsystems but produce complementary code.

A man named Bill Steele is wrapping up NCD's operations, but he refused to talk to us. So it's not exactly clear who current NCD customers are meant to call about any product problems. The ThinPath workers promised to give us these details sometime next week.

NCD still appears to trade publicly on the Pink Sheets but has literally sunk below being a penny stock, closing Friday at $0.009 per share. The company has not made any filings about its closure with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that we can locate. The last available statement - from the quarter ended March 31, 2002 - shows that NCD made $4m from hardware sales and $530,000 from software sales. Sales were about half those from the same quarter the previous year.

A few years back, NCD received tons of press as did thin clients. It had deals in place with the likes of Intel and IBM to go after the fat client world dominated by Microsoft. In the last couple of years, NCD's sales have steadily declined with it falling off many of the analyst firms' thin client sales trackers.

It seems safe to bet that ThinPath Systems will claim that NCD's software was what really made the company unique. The new company will likely bill itself as an open platform for thin client hardware makers and for companies looking for a better way to manage groups of PCs. We suspect ThinPath will also look to take care of NCD's existing customer base. ®

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