HDS Network Systems Inc, the old X terminals company now turned Network Computer player, has worked out a couple of licensing deals for its Network Computer and companion netOS operating system, and claims there are more deals in the works. It’s giving its netOS to Corel Corp for Corel’s upcoming Video-NC, and licensing its entire box to Affinity Systems Inc, a neighbouring start-up. Corel is swapping Office for Java for the HDS netOS operating system to use on its own Network Computer. Corel’s Video-NC is being designed around an MPC 821 PowerPC processor from Motorola Inc as opposed to the Intel i960 RISC chip HDS has in its box, which is called the @workstation. Both Corel and HDS are offloading the hardware manufacturing to the same third party. The pair are currently working to debug the HDS netOS so it’ will run on the Motorola chip. Corel’s V-NC, a beta version of which is due out in March, will come standard with a huge 32MB RAM, Sun Microsystems Inc’s Java Virtual Machine, a JIT just-in- time compiler, a built-in v.34 modem, speakers, a microphone, an Ethernet interface, a keyboard and a mouse. It’s expected to be bundled in with Netscape Communications Corp’s Navigator, Office for Java and Corel’s upcoming video camera. But Corel may have some trouble making its release schedule. Office for Java, which was supposed to go to beta last week, but has been delayed yet again until February 24. The digital camera isn’t due out until this summer. Corel says it intends to use its box to push the early adoption of its Office for Java, which it promises will be ready to go gold by the end of this quarter, despite the delays. It eventually plans to sell the hardware off or license it, claiming there have already been offers.
Corel’s diversion into hardware is considered a serious distraction from its Wordperfect battle with Microsoft by observers like the Gartner Group. Similarly, Affinity Systems, a seven-year-old start-up formerly known as Productivity Systems Inc, plans to stick its name on a stripped- down version of the HDS NC and call it Visara. The 30-man Landsdale, Pennsylvania company says it will integrate its own IBM terminal emulation cards into the box, in place of the ones HDS has, and eventually manufacture it itself. Its first release will have 8MB RAM, an Ethernet network interface, a VGA/SVGA video interface, a mouse and a keyboard with options for a Java Virtual Machine and Netscape browser. The release date was originally planned for February but has been pushed back to mid- March. All three machines run Unix, midrange, mainframe and DOS applications with Insignia Systems Inc’s NTrigue software as an option to run Windows applications. HDS said it will start announcing that other large companies have licensed its hardware and software in the next few weeks. A basic HDS or Affinity box starts at $700 with Corel’s expected somewhere between $500-$700.