Thin Clients. Again. Stop. Please.

Oh boy, no matter how much I try to avoid it, the whole thin client subject keeps coming back and the pro arguments do not change. Jeroen wrote about the  flaws on Thin Clients last week and I wrote something about them as well a couple weeks ago, that you can read here.

Let me explain again what is wrong with Thin Clients and why the arguments most vendors have about them is completely bogus in my opinion.

First of all, in times of $200 PCs at Walmart, there is no justification why a Thin Client should cost twice or three times as much as a full blown PC. Unless these thin clients are coming with Quad Core Xeons and Dual GPU ATI Radeons on them and not one told me. I still think that is not the case and more than that, most of these come with non-Intel CPUs and crappy, subpar video cards. So why they cost the same or much more I have no idea. Add to that the fact I personally worked on building thin clients and dealing with suppliers in China, I do know exactly how low you can go on pricing these things.

Arguments like ‘no moving parts’ add an extra cost are also not 100% accurate. You can get some very reasonable, small system boards that will take IDE Flash Drives (Disk on Module). These days a 1GB one costs less than $20 and we are not talking about large quantities here. Years ago I was able to build one of these systems for less than $80 and proved it would be possible to bring them to the market for $99. That included a centralized management tool that we developed at the time, to manage all these from a single location.

I guess my main complain is really regarding what you get for what you pay, when compared to a full blown PC. Vendors will say it is all about management (and that is valid – and more than that, it is the same in the PC world; managing PCs or any other asset for that matter is key) but the price that carries from the vendors I think is simply too much. Again, it can be done for much less.

I think at the end my main complain is the same as everyone out there. If these things would be selling for $99, many people I know would buy way more of these than they do today. But when you have small boxes with way less power for more than a PC, it becomes a tough sell, especially on times when companies are trying to save as much as you can.

One thing I must say is in part this is not all their fault (the thin client vendors). The fact all the greatest and latest features on the connecting clients (ICA or RDP) are only available on Windows (and I mean full blown Windows – Windows CE in many cases does NOT support all the features) for sure has an impact as you need bigger flash drives and Microsoft licenses what adds up for sure.

That brings me to one question. Why you Citrix, cannot deliver a decent ICA client that has pretty much all the functionality you have on Windows? You can AND you know that. The same question applies to Microsoft but in that case we all know the answer. And unfortunately that same answer may apply to Citrix.

And on ICA, things get worse as unlike RDP, ICA is closed and the specs are NOT available what prevents anyone from writing a decent ICA client for Linux (what can be done at least for RDP – and please we all know the ICA Client for Linux sucks balls big time). Should Citrix open the specs on ICA? Not sure, especially considering how ahead of the game they are when compared to VMWare View offerings…

The point here is simple. Hardware wise thin clients could cost the same as PCs (or less for sure) but the software layer may add something to the price and if not adding (meaning using Open Source OSs) may not deliver the experience you need/want for your users.

Resuming. You are screwed and should use locked down PCs. Or contact me and we will build a decent thin client.

And I promise I will try not to talk about thin clients anymore until the end of the year.


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