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When it comes to thin clients, industry chiefs may huff and puff about network computers, Windows Terminals, NetPCs, and JavaStations. But after the hyperbolic hot air blows by, IT managers say thin-client computing is not about the kind of device that sits at the end of the network -- it's about building a computing architecture that helps them reduce cost and complexity while giving end-users the right level of functionality.
In fact, the thin-client concept is rapidly evolving to embrace not just a certain kind of hardware device, but a software architecture that is applicable to many different hardware devices.
Bob Lewis, a consultant at Perot Systems in Minneapolis (and an InfoWorld columnist) defines thin client as client software that provides the presentation and presentation logic, leaving business logic, integration logic, transaction services, database services, naming services, and such to separate modules.
"You can implement thin-client applications on PCs. Heck, you can run everything on the same desktop PC and still have a thin client. It's software, not hardware," Lewis says.
Greg Blatnik, vice president of Zona Research, in Redwood City, Calif., is more general. His definition of thin clients includes any product designed to access server-based network applications and information sources that use the server for application installation, administration, and support.
"This definition is purposely vague," Blatnik says. "We're trying to focus on what is happening rather than on some particular flavor or design of product that someone is going to call a thin client."
By some measures, network-computer and thin-client shipments did not meet analysts' expectations.
Although definitions vary, what's key is that the rise of the Internet and intranets has opened IT managers' eyes to the idea that users can access information without it being on the …