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  1. Technology
March 29, 1996


By CBR Staff Writer

From Multimedia Futures, a sister publication

Hot on the heels of predictions from Goldman Sachs & Co that the Internet market is the new boom, major city brokers Citicorp have been advised that the notion of Internet terminals is one conjured up by the losers in the PC market and unlikely to be a major moneyspinner. Independent research firm and Citicorp’s investment advisors, Oxford Analytica, were asked to provide their take on the rise in popularity of the set-top browser, a box that would follow the model of the satellite set-top box to connect to the Internet. Pundits and industry heavyweights have drawn lines from the current technology outwards to predict the set-top browser will take over from the PC as the home computing platform of choice. But Oxford Analytica’s predictions were hardly so rosy. These are envisaged as low-cost, minimally specified diskless workstations which would allow users to access the Internet and send email, but little else, the report states. The terminals are a return to the mainframe model, the report says, and are best seen as a response by losers in the desktop operating systems battle to Microsoft [Corp]’s dominant grip on the PC market. Sun Microsystems Inc is seen by many as the contender to Microsoft’s domination. It has populated the press with its Java language, which promises to run applications from remote sites letting users pay for software as they use it. Closely following was the ‘Java chip’, a super-powerful processor touted as being ideal for the Java language (although some say it was ideal only because Java is a power-hungry program). A few days ago, Sun demonstrated its set-top browser, the JavaStation, for the corporate market. While the concept – from Sun and the rest – is some way off from mass production, Oxford Analytica sees significant problems that have to be resolved: It seems highly unlikely that users who have experienced the flexibility of being able to access the Internet, store data, and run a variety of different programs on their PCs will relish the prospect of entrusting their data and programs to remote machines, the report says. The PC has given users their own ownership of data, it says, which reflects an important psychological sense of control. The model would rely on the telecommunications firms providing high-speed high-bandwidth access at prices that users would be willing to pay. Given the threat that the Internet currently poses the telcos in lost revenues to the Internet phone and local-access email, it seems unlikely that many will have such a benevolent point of view for some while. Oxford Analytica points out that these costs do not exist for data held locally on PCs. Thus, the report concludes, the Internet terminal could only be a success if priced well below a basic PC. The JavaStation was announced at $750-$1500, which fairly equates with average PC prices.

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