What is going on with Thin Clients?

One of these days after a discussion about how cheap hardware has become (and the power that is now available on your $400 desktop/laptop) I started to think, especially after winning that Wyse notebook/terminal at the BriForum GeekOut show, what is going on with Thin Client hardware.

No matter what the vendors may say these should be cheaper and have way more power that what we see on the market these days. To start, they are pretty much all x86 based. Ok, they may have a different, fanless power supply, and something else. But why these things have not dropped in price while increasing their power as PCs/Laptops did?

I do understand these devices do have flash memory and several other things your regular PC does not have. But in my opinion there is no reason why these are so underpowered and at the same time, overpriced when compared to regular PCs.

And that in a way kind of slows down the adoption of server centric solutions. Note I am not using the term ‘Server Based’. Server centric means any solution that runs off a centralized server model, whatever that is a TS/Citrix farm or a VDI hosted solution.

With overpriced and underpowered clients at the user end, the overall experience is reduced and more than that, IT starts to question what the benefit is on having on someone’s desk something that costs as much or more than a full blown PC. Ok I do understand things like power consumption and so on. But these are usually variables that most IT people are not even aware of. And regardless of all these arguments, even if it sucks 1/10 of the power a PC does, does it need to cost more and be that underpowered? I am sure there is room for improvements on thin clients. But as I see it, the manufacturers are kind of trying to maximize their gains by selling something that has indeed an outdated design that for sure has not changed for years! So why invest money to come up with the killer thin client that can provide PC like experience to SBC/VDI environments and still use way less power than a PC, having no moving parts if we can still sell that 10 year old design and make way more money?

Well what do you think? To me, if this industry wants to become mainstream in what they do they must change. The same way companies like Citrix and Microsoft are changing the way we access our applications today.


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5 Replies to “What is going on with Thin Clients?”

  1. I agree…You’re average thin-client with nothing is $300 where as you can get a netbook with an Atom CPU, 2GB of RAM and an 160GB HDD for the same price!!!

  2. I disagree & agree

    Definitely hw to hw there is allot missed in bang for buck its definitely lacking when comparing hw.

    Its not HW your looking at that wyse terminal buyers care about. Their after management of the entire end users hw solution. HW is the least of the concerns – if it can deliver the user experience then who cares about not haveing the bangs of a desktop. The persuit is the to get end user’s hw down to the likes of a phone – plug it in and forget about it. No local data to worry about. Security is much improved and heck they have less value to walk off in some shady pocket. Virus concerns are reduced, less tech knowledge is required for user HW deployment, and imo opinion easier to manage 1000s of terminals then 1000s of desktops – even notebooks for that matter. Do I want one in front of me at work?… heck no! but would it deliver all I needed from a end user standpoint for business – absolutely 99%ish of the time so you have to measure what the other 1%ish is really worth. If a employer/client is in position to start out fresh or mix in dedicated terminals I believe the terminals are a worthy and possibly a better solution in a matching busines case.

    I do wish even my own PC was bit more like a terminal – I have the worst luck with fans & hdd failures.

    1. Hey Patrick! Thanks for the comment.
      What I mean is, can you create a desktop that has terminal like features at a much lower cost? Yes you can. The reason I am saying that is simple. When I was the CEO at Terminal-Services.NET we went through the process of getting our own thin clients built. No moving parts, low power and with centralized management. At the time, more than FOUR years ago we got that under $150.
      The point here is simple: using common hardware you can indeed achieve pretty much the same as you have on a thin client and at a fraction of the cost of these.
      Why there is such a gap in price between a PC and a thin client is beyond me. As an example I just got a Wyse X90 notebook like thin client terminal. Runs XP embedded. 512MB RAM, 512MB flash. Probably running on some VIA CPU. Why this thing costs $700-$800 and a Netbook with a solid state drive (much bigger, more RAM, faster CPU) costs 1/2 to 1/3 of that? Just because I can manage the Wyse terminal?
      If that is the case, well then management is indeed an expensive proposition. 🙂

  3. Claudio, I think you miss a big point. The reality is the hardware is irrelevant it is the OS, Management, and End User experience that matter. Any one can grab components off a shelf and call it a thin client, just like you did. But what OS did you have on that device, how much time did you spend getting everything working, was it able to run multimedia, or redirect USB, or have integrated bluetooth or wireless. Did you have to apply Anti Virus and lock it down? And most of all was it a secure, centrally managed, small footprint OS like Wyse Thin OS? No, and that is the reason why people buy real thin clients that have 3 year warranty’s,a real thin client company supporting them, and support for new industry standards. Buying a netbook only solves one piece of the aquisition cost, the rest comes later when you have to make it work consistently and securely. Or when you have to explain how data was taken off your netowrk by that netbook.

    I do agree with the fact that sometimes the hardware is overpriced but unfortunately some of that is licensing to someone like Microsoft in your laptop case or the fact that the bloated OS needs bigger flash and memory. It is not perfect in either scenario but makes for a good debate!

    1. Hey Matt. I completely understand what you are saying and more than that, I was actually doing all that 5 years ago with my F.Boot line of products. Hardened, centralized management, Linux based. Pretty much all that is around today, 5 years later. 🙂 Not to mention ours you could boot off the network using PXE. We even had one where the whole image required on the devices was under 720kb.
      Given that, I still think the hardware is overpriced. Windows XP Embedded or Windows CE are indeed an expense but not more than Windows Vista/7 themselves. If netbooks can be sold for $299 there is no reason why a terminal cannot in the same price range, that is my take on this. 🙂

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