Hewlett-Packard's Personal Systems Group is developing a portable thin client for launch later this year. Target markets will include the financial sector, government agencies, education, and healthcare.
"Basically it is any vertical where security is key but they still want their users to be mobile," said Alex Ebeid, business desktop category manager for HP in the UK and Ireland.
Richard Berridge, HP's remote desktop channel manager for the same geographies, said: "We are working on projects to give pupils remote access to their school infrastructure, so that they could interact with their peers, do homework and catch up on missed lessons from home, but also from their grandparents' house."
Another example he cited was in hospitals. "A patient would be able to go to any doctor or any A&E; and they could pull up his or her full history, or you could have a mobile device on a ward from which a doctor could access patient information and view it without it leaving the premises, because the device would reside locally," he said. "With RFID, you could even specify that records would only be shown if both the patient and doctor were present."
HP appears to be looking at both wired and wireless connectivity. Broadband DSL are becoming more prevalent in the home, while sectors such as healthcare are deploying WiFi for the reduced capex and for mobility of access. "This device will be like a laptop, but without any data residing locally," said Berridge.
The Palo Alto, California-based vendor has refreshed its entire thin client line over the last six months, and now offers a range from the low-end t5125, a Linux box running the VIA Eden 400 MHz processor and offering access to Citrix or Windows Terminal Services, but only limited peripheral support, up to the high-end t5720 (running Embedded XP) and t5725 (Debian Linux), both of which are on the AMD Geode NX 1500 1,0 GHz processor.
The high-end boxes are full OSes and customisable, said Berridge. "Basically anything you can do on a desktop machine, you can do on these, except of course they have no local storage," he said. "You can run Adobe Acrobat, load OpenOffice and have a full browser with Java Virtual Machine capabilities, the only limitation being the capacity of the Flash on board, which is typically 512 MB, though we also have a 1 GB unit."
According to statistics from IDC, HP edged Wyse out of the top spot in the 1,1 million-unit EMEA market in the fourth quarter last year with a 26,2% share against Wyse's 26%. Wyse is more dominant in the 1,2 million-unit North American market where it holds over 40% share, with Neoware in second place with 20%, and HP with 17%. North America and EMEA are the lion's share of the market, with APAC representing an additional 300 000 units a year.