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COMPUTING

Comdex to see spate of PC alternatives

November 2, 1999
Web posted at: 8:46 a.m. EST (1346 GMT)

by Ephraim Schwartz

From...
InfoWorld

(IDG) -- The era of the one-size-fits-all PC appears to be coming to an end, and attendees at this year's Comdex trade show will see some of the results of that trend.

Compaq Computer will not be on the show floor, but is holding an invitation-only "ShowStoppers" press event on Nov. 15, at which it will unveil an Internet appliance.

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The appliance will have a built-in monitor and CPU and will be aimed at a range of markets, said a source familiar with it. In addition to consumers, Compaq will offer the appliance to banks and telephone companies as a device which they, in turn, can offer to customers for online banking and bill paying, the source said. The low-cost appliance will include a Web browser and e-mail capabilities.

According to Cambridge, Mass.-based market research company Giga Information Group, Internet-based appliance sales will outstrip those of personal computers by 2002. And, the move to these devices will not be limited to the consumer market.

"The business market wants low-maintenance devices. Appliances can get close to this profile," said Rob Enderle, a senior analyst at the Giga Information Group, in San Jose, Calif.

Until now, bandwidth issues have restricted corporate adoption of network-centric appliances, Enderle said, but once Gigabit Ethernet comes to the desktop, it will generate an explosion of sales.

Addressing financial analysts in New York, Michael Capellas, chief executive officer at Compaq, focused on a new product mix coming from the company. Capellas said that the changes in the PC industry have only just begun, and users will see simpler products and new form factors.

"The most dramatic change in store is with the products themselves," Capellas said. "There is no doubt in my mind that what we know of as a PC will change."

Compaq will soon be joined by Hewlett-Packard and NEC.

NEC will be privately showing an Internet appliance at Comdex.

According to a source, NEC is seeing a groundswell of customer demand for such a product.

HP is also in the midst of defining the appliance category.

"They realize that there are a lot of corporate customers that do not want to deal with the complexity of a PC," the source said.

IBM is also pursuing an appliance strategy, selling its recently acquired InterJet 2 thin server for messaging and Web access as part of a $99 monthly service. InterJet 2 runs FreeBDS, an open-source version of Unix that predates Linux.

Boca Research, based in Boca Raton, Fla., will also show a non-Windows appliance at Comdex. The BocVision JNC205 Java Network Terminal will use an embedded version of Linux, and the appliance will support the Citrix independent computing architecture protocol.

According to Enderle, desktop appliances lessen the importance of the operating system.

"Appliances will be based on browsers, and it's the service you care about," Enderle said. "The OS is no longer important."

Ephraim Schwartz is an InfoWorld editor at large based in San Francisco.



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