Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Scoop: Wyse says in talks with Google and Yahoo on thin computing

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 15, 2006

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

50x15_Initiative.gifWyse Technology, the leading thin-client manufacturer, told SVW that it is in talks with both Google and Yahoo, for the design and production of powerful low-priced computers integrating data, voice, and broadband connectivity.

Two senior sources at Wyse confirmed the discussions were underway. One of the two sources added that AOL had not approached the company but that Amazon and Ebay were exploring similar approaches.

Details of the discussions with Google were not revealed. However, Wyse attempted to make the connection with Google more obvious in the public eye.

On Tuesday, it hosted a large promotional event in San Francisco attracting senior IT managers at large corporations and featuring John Battelle moderating a panel on thin computing. Mr Battelle is the lead Google watcher with his Searchblog and Wyse gave away hundreds of copies of his latest book: The Search.

The internet giants are interested in using low-priced PC-compatible computers to capture millions of users in developing countries. Those millions of users will be needed to fuel their future growth as Western markets begin to slow and mature.

By making their online services easier to access on developing world PCs, Google and Yahoo would also be able to make sure that their search box and services are foremost. Google recently reached a deal with Dell to distribute new PCs with Google's Toolbar and search prominently displayed on the start page.

Accelerating Global Googleization?

The growth of Internet users in developing countries could be dramatically accelerated if GOOG and YHOO were to subsidize the hardware and communications platform.

Similarly, Ebay and Amazon, could provide their trading platforms to massive new markets in the developing world.

Prices could be further reduced if the computers used Linux instead of Microsoft Windows to run a web browser-the only user interface required to access online services. And the use of Intel-compatible chips from AMD and others, could further reduce prices.

The internet rivals would be competing for hundreds of millions of new users within a hot demographic: the young middle classes forming in the developing world, primarily in India and China.

By making the PC and internet technology significantly more affordable, such moves would help bridge a massive digital divide: 84 percent of the world's population has no Internet access.

50 percent in 15 years

Wyse is a key supporter of the AMD-founded 50x15 digital inclusion initiative, which seeks to provide 50 per cent of the world's population with Internet access by 2015.

Microsoft, the largest rival to Google and Yahoo, last week showed off prototypes of its version of a thin-client computer--the Origami. But at around $800 it is too expensive to be used in the developing world.[Please see: MSFT's Origami: MSFT succeeds in converging all the disadvantages of a PDA and Notebook]

The non-profit organization Inveneo is a keen supporter of 50x15 and Kristin Peterson, chief development officer says that thin-computing systems are already being installed in remote villages. "We have systems that are powered by solar or by bicycle and they are providing a lot of value for people. They can check weather patterns, check the price of their market goods--and also make phone calls using VOIP."

Huge corporate markets

Wyse also sees tremendous opportunities in Western corporate markets. It favors the term "thin computing" to describe a system of hardware services and software that can include a mixture of PCs and thin-clients. That way, customers can gradually replace PCs with less-expensive thin-client systems while taking advantage of centrally managed administration and maintenance capabilities that save on labor costs.

PC use in corporations is expensive because of the need for large support staffs. Any technologies that can leverage the work of existing IT support staff can rapidly catch the attention of large organizations.

David Watson, CTO at Kaiser Permanente, the healthcare giant, told SVW: "I have a budget of $1.4bn and I have hundreds of people supporting our PCs. Thin computing could reduce my PC support and other costs which we can reinvest in healthcare."

Wyse has also teamed up with Citrix and VMware to provide technologies that can run powerful corporate applications remotely or client-side, making thin computing solutions more attractive to a wider range of corporations.

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