Webtronics Inc, a small company established in 1995, is considering legal action against computer giant Cisco Systems Inc. Both of the companies have recently launched small, low- priced Web servers designed to enable users to set up and serve Web pages on the Internet and Intranets. Webtronics claims that it was working closely on the development of the product with Cisco last year, originally having an agreement with the company which Cisco then withdrew from. However, Cisco’s product marketing manager Kevin Cheek, who has been working on the Micro Webserver project for the past six months, claimed to have no knowledge of an agreement with the San Francisco-based company and stated: We’re not using any of their (Webtronics) software or hardware.
WebBox or Micro Server?
Webtronics believes that its product, the WebBox, is a breakthrough for those who want simple and relatively easy access to the Web, and believes the WebBox is far superior to Cisco’s Micro Webserver. The WebBox is about the size of an office dictionary, and is designed to support mid to high-end systems. It has no software to install, floppy drive or hard disk, making the installation process a matter of connecting the box to an Ethernet hub, setting the IP address and plugging the box into their system. All of the pages generated from the WebBox are stored in flash memory, providing greater security and reducing the risk of crashes, with memory retained when the power goes off. It has been designed to support Java, Forms, Tcl and CGI scripts, with low power consumption and high scalability. The WebBox uses a 25Mhz Motorola MC68EN360, which includes a RISC co- processor which has an Ethernet controller implemented. Webtronics has designed its own firmware, called WebChip which gives the WebBox its functionality, and Webtronics has plans to eventually install it in all manner of electrical devices such as video recorders, industrial machinery and even toasters. Capable of serving around 50 simultaneous users, with a transfer rate of 360,000 Kbps, the WebBox has a starting price of 1,600 pounds in the UK, with the US price not yet settled. The product is aimed at office users with no knowledge of Unix software, TCP/IP networks or the Internet. Cisco’s Micro Webserver product differs from the WebBox in having a removable Iomega Corp Zip drive that provides 100 Mb of portable data and application storage space. Cisco is marketing its product as a plug-and-play system. It includes its own HyperText Transfer Protocol-based Web server and Java Graphical User Interface configuration tools, and is capable of handling over ten connections per second and around 2Mbps throughput. The Micro Webserver has a base price of $1,000. A spokesperson for Webtronics said that the company is the original inventor of the small Web server. Cheek say that the Micro Webserver took around six months to develop, but was something that the company had thought about doing for some time. Webtronics said that its lawyers are evaluating the possibility of grounds for a lawsuit.