Archive: July 1997 — The advent of the NetPC

The industry had high hopes for thin-client computing in 1997, when several high-profile OEMs showed off prototypes of what they called NetPCs at what was then PC Expo in New York City.

The NetPCs, which

were offered by IBM, NEC and Zenith, among others, was a small machine with a nine inch by 11 inch chassis and no expansion slots. Without monitors, they were expected to cost around US$1,000. In a competing camp were Oracle and Sun Microsystems, which were offering an NC, or network computer, for even less.

At the time, a Dataquest analyst doubted the systems’ potential.

“”PC Expo is certainly a show of solidarity for the NetPC,”” he said, “”but we’ll see the significance of these products when we see the NCs, and how they match up.””

In the end, the significance was pretty small. By 1998, the industry was already eyeing the coming up the US$500 PC, and sub-US$1,000 PCs were common by 1999. Most customers opted for full functionality as the prices came down.

Vendors love to quote industry analysts about their products, but not when the analysts are advising customers to stay away. Six years ago, Compaq was fuming over a “”do not buy”” advisory from Gartner Group concerning the Armada 4100 notebook.

“”In addition to complaints of component failures such as power supply, read-only memory BIOS battery and hard drive, there were “”dead on arrival”” and failures within 30 days also reported,”” Gartner said.

Compaq responded by offering increased support for its reseller channel, but VARs interviewed by CDN at the time had nothing but praise for the Armada 4100s.

By 2001, Compaq abandoned the Armada brand in favour of Evo, shortly before its merger with HP last year.

Apple surprised some of the Mac faithful in 1997 when it said it would offer cross-platform compatibility with Rhapsody.

Using the “”Yellow Box”” application programming interfaces, Apple said software developers would eventually be able to deploy their applications on a range of operating systems including Rhapsody, Mac OS, Rhapsody for Intel, Windows 95 and Windows NT.

“”They’ll have capabilities they haven’t had before, markets they haven’t had before and can customize software for those markets,”” an Apple product line manager said at the time.

By the next year, Apple shifted gears considerably when it dropped Rhapsody to focus its efforts on Mac OS X.

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