Sun Microsystems Inc is going head to head with IBM Corp by today introducing a board for OEMs to use as the basis for thin clients. IBM has been shipping a PowerPC 403-based board since March, but Sun’s board is more geared towards Java, featuring the JavaOS and HotJava Views user environment. The chip on the board is the microSparc IIep, manufactured by LSI Logic Corp, which also co-designed the processor with Sun. It clocks at 100MHz, and the board features a 32-bit PCI bus, 10/100Mbit ethernet connection, 1 Mb ROM, but no RAM, as Sun figures most OEMs have a ready source of cheap RAM already. It has 16-bit stereo audio and graphics capabilities. There are no expansion slots due to the board’s seven inch square size. Apart from JavaOS and HotJava Views, Sun is also including NC server with the package, which runs on Solaris and Windows NT and include Insignia Solutions Inc’s NTrigue multi-user extensions to NT, which is based on Citrix systems Inc’s ICA protocol, so PC applications can be run. The NC server also includes the dynamic host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) software that can assign IPO addresses to devices, the reverse address resolution protocol (rarp) that recognizes ethernet addresses, the javaboot software that downloads the OS. Product line manager John Reno says it’s an agnostic boot, it can download any server or boot any client. Sun will also offer its Ultra AX server if needs be. The unit formerly known as JavaSoft (Sun wants them all to be referred to as Sun these days) did the port to the IIep, which begs the question of why the JavaStations, which are also to be based on that chip ready yet? Presumably there’s still a fair bit of work to be done on the production versions of the JavaStations because they’re not due in volume until the first quarter of next year. We have been told in the past that it was the JavaOS port to the IIep that was holding them up. Reno says Sun will transition through the microSparc to the Java chips when they become available. Reno expects what he calls the microJava 701 series to be ready within a year to 18 months for these boards. He said customers will use the JavaEngine as a prototype vehicle for the Java chips. The JavaEngine boards have just been released to OEM in quantities of 10s and 20s, with a ramp up over the fourth quarter. They go into full production in October and Reno reckons they will be in volumes of thousands to tens of thousands through next year. Sun is aiming not only at PC vendors, but at makers of Point of Sale (PoS) terminals – and terminals of all kinds, kiosks, Unix systems vendors and manufacturing systems. A US company that builds telephones OEM has licensed the JavaEngine to make desktop screen phones and an Asian PC company has a contract with educational agencies in Asia in which it will use the boards, says Reno. JavaEngine costs $385 in quantities of 10,000 up.
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