Like the rest of the industry, Network Computing Devices Inc’s still awaiting the NT 4.0 cut of Citrix Systems Inc’s WinFrame multi-user extensions to come down before it can support NT 4.0 in its WinCenter software that delivers Windows applications to non-PC desktops and the Explora and HMX X terminals it now calls network computers.
It wishes Microsoft Corp would do the job itself. The Citrix technology, still in beta, will be more than a year late by the time it ships in a production release (assuming Citrix is still around by then of course). NCD and others are critical of Citrix’ buggy code and missed deadlines. Indeed NCD doesn’t use Citrix’ display technology in WinCenter – except in the PC versions of the software it also offers – instead displaying all applications through X Windows which it says is quicker. Citrix’s only value-add is ICA, which is inferior to X, it says, although it does use the ICA3 transport.
Using WinCenter clients can cut and paste text and graphics between Windows 3.x, Unix and 2370 applications. NCD boasts WinCenter is the only software of its kind to support audio. An optional server add-on enables WinCenter to be used as a PC file/print server and as an NT domain controller.
Buggy proprietary code
WinCenter is being revved this month to provide better application integration features and support for Windows 95. NCD claims to be Citrix’ biggest source of OEM revenue – in fact NCD makes almost nothing on WinCenter as most revenue is paid back to Citrix in royalties. Insignia Solutions Inc has a version of WinCenter it calls NTrigue. A co-development agreement gave Insignia the rights to WinCenter beta code but the companies fell out and went their own separate ways. Sun Microsystems Inc’s JavaStation can run Windows applications via a bundled version of Insignia’s NTrigue X server and client for Java.
NCD says 80% of its 80-odd engineers (it’s counting Q&A people in there too) work on software development. Some 20% of revenue is derived from software sales.
As well as supplying X terminals to big blue, NCD is also building a PowerPC 403-based network computer for IBM Corp which will call it the Network Station. While the IBM win is a huge one for NCD, won’t it lose out when IBM builds its own Network Centers?
Despite what IBM’s newly-created NC division told us a few months back, NCD says IBM has made no commitment to productize the PowerPC 603e-based network computer board that its IMD microelectronics division is to OEM. The prototypes it showed back at Comdex were, in NCD’s mind, there to advertise the board’s possibilities.
IBM will use a custom version of NCD’s local NCDware BSD Unix- based embedded operating system – which is effectively a graphics processing engine – on the Network Stations.
IBM calls the software ACTware for the moment and will install JavaOS on to it, which NCD doesn’t currently include, JavaOS being far too untested for its taste. NCD’s currently adding a Spyglass browser to NCDware.
IBM’s not going to resell WinCenter on the Network Stations. It doesn’t want to be seen to be endorsing Windows, it’s also not interested into trying to support Citrix’s notoriously buggy, proprietary code. But they will do joint marketing to all Network Station customers. IBM is tailoring Network Stations for each of its environments, including AS/400 and MVS, hoping it can will the potentially vast terminal replacement business in each market.
This story was originally printed in Online Reporter, our sister publication.