Compaq details Net PC, aims digs at NC

Compaq today announced its Network PC (Net PC) and took plenty of time out to make several digs at its latest bogeyman: the competing Network Computer (NC) faction which it once considered joining.

The world number one in PCs said its first Net PC will ship in September at a price that will be below a standard PC. As the name suggests, the Deskpro 4000N will look a lot like a PC but have a couple of features - and skip a couple of features - that will make it more of a candidiate for PC environments that are highly centralised. In that sense at least, the Net PC will come up against NCs and focus heavily on the terminal replacement market. All systems will be sold through reseller channels, reflecting Compaq's belief that Net PCs will sell to corporations.

The 4000N will be a sealed case system based on a choice of 200MHz Pentium, 166MHz Pentium MMX and 200MHz Pentium MMX processors. The operating system will be Windows NT 4.0 and the standard specification include 16-32Mb SDRAM, internal 1.6Gb hard drive, 2Mb SGRAM S3 graphics card, Fast Ethernet interface, one PCI slot and one storage bay but no floppy drive. A key feature is the inclusion of remote management and configuration software tools.

Steve Torbe, product marketing manager for commercial desktops at Compaq, said the "majority of hype about network computing has been about NCs" but criticised the Sun/Oracle endorsed model for reliance on Java and heavy server requirements.

"Java is an exciting language for deploying applications... However, there are rather few on company desktops," Torbe said.

"[NC makers] haven't actually achieved anything like the $500 NC they promised. Once you've added the mouse, keyboard and monitor, it's more like $1,000. The server needs to be immensely powerful and the network bandwidth has to be huge; that cost has to be built into the total cost of ownership. Java is great but certain functions are immature: peripheral support is not there, applications are not there. What you're talking about is writing your own applications. There are costs there, and costs in skilling up managers and users."

The stock market certainly seems to have some faith in the Net PC concept as Intel, Microsoft and other Net PC proponents shares rose in trading yesterday. Compaq rose $5 to $105¼.

Compaq can be contacted by telephone on 0990-134456.