The final NetPC specification suggests that spotting the difference between a NetPC and a PC could be tough. The consortium led by Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Microsoft and Intel completed the final spec this week, dropping one small bombshell by adding support for Digital Alpha processors but elsewhere observing the Wintel hegemony.
The key difference between NetPCs and PCs will be the former's lack of upgradability. While PC users have long enjoyed access to their PC's internals, NetPCs will sport a sealed case that restricts upgrade options. NetPC proponents say the design eases the manageability burden for IT support staffers. A related advantage is that NetPCs can be controlled form remote locations, although numerous PC designs such as recent products from IBM, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard include tools to do the same job. Recent IBM business desktops have included a feature called Wake On LAN that allows network managers to power up systems and perform software upgrades and diagnostic routines, for example.
The NetPC specification calls for a base 133MHz Pentium processor, 16Mb RAM and Windows 95 or NT but no hard drive or floppy drive. However, it is expected that many buyers will elect to have primary and secondary storage drives pre-installed.