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March 6, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 12:09pm


By CBR Staff Writer

The final NetPC 1.0 specification won’t be unveiled for another few weeks, but the Intel Corp processor and Windows-based NetPC architecture has already won its first big boost in the form of an order for 15,000 of the boxes from the French lottery. The lottery boxes will run NT – not Win95 – and they’ll be made by France’s mighty Groupe Dassault SA using the NT-on-CD design dreamed up by French design house Advanced PC Technologies, APCT. Dassault put up some of the capital to start APCT. It was unclear until a week ago whether APCT’s Network Multimedia PC 97, NPC97, would qualify as a NetPC since it runs both NT and whatever application software is used off a CD rather than a hard drive. APCT’s founder, president and chief inventor Andre Thi Troung, fresh from a pilgrimage to Microsoft Corp to explain his design, says that Microsoft indicated his development will be included when the NetPC specifications are finally unveiled. He says it also meets the Oracle-Sun Network Computers Reference Profile. Troung’s deal with the French lottery calls for a trial run in September followed by delivery of all 15,000 NPC97s, and 15,000 NT licenses, some time in 1998. No doubt waltzing into Microsoft with an order of that size in hand turned some heads and opened some doors. VenturCom Inc, the company which developed the technique that the NPC97 uses to pick and choose just pieces of NT so the operating system and an application can run in a truncated 8Mb-12Mb footprint, also stands to book an order for 15,000 run-time licenses, one of its first large NT-based production orders. Meanwhile, Truong let drop last week that he’s pitching Packard Bell NEC Inc to become the first US producer of NPC97s. The negotiations are apparently past the sniffing stage though no deal is signed yet. Packard Bell has not been party to the NetPC initiative though its arch-rivals, Compaq Computer Corp and Dell Computer Corp, were founders along with Hewlett-Packard Co, Intel and Microsoft. Truong said the CD design was key to his lottery win because it can’t be hacked, obviously lotteries are sensitive to security issues. The French Lottery is going to write the gambling programs itself. It’s also ordering the boxes with smart card readers, again for security reasons. Truong is gearing up for what’s sure to be a harder-fought battle, a plan to put some type of terminal device on the desk of every doctor in France – potentially a 100,000-unit sale. Patients’ medical histories will be on smart cards, according to French government specifications, and Troung says he fully expects to see every Network Computer and NetPC vendor in the world pitching for the business. As a French national he thinks his company stands a good chance of winning it. He’s less optimistic, though, about his attempts to convince France Telecom to replace its massive Minitel installed base with NT-based NPC97s, despite the fact that the PTT is also an investor in APCT. The cost of replacing all those Minitels is just too huge, he says.

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