WiFi reaches the thin client

In this interview, TechTarget ANZ's Ian Yates interviews Ward Nash from Wyse Technology about the company's new WiFi enabled thin client terminals.

Ward Nash (WN): Well WiFi as you know would be an older technology in the PC world and typically the thin client world hasn't had so much in WiFi because we've always been attached to a desk and we haven't done too much in the mobile space. But now we've added WiFi into our four operating systems that we use on a thin client today which are XP embedded, Linux, Windows CE and Wyse Thin OS. So this final announcement is adding WiFi to the Wyse Thin OS operating system and that allows for obvious connectivity to the network. But even more so in the thin client world, it is very important to be able to re-image these terminals remotely and make it easy to support them. That's the whole reason to go to thin client. So when you have a Wyse Thin OS operating system that the total size of it is 2MB and then you add WiFi capability you are then able to basically get a terminal completely out of the box straight from manufacturing, straight from the warehouse, plug it in, turn it on, it gets its image off the network and you're up and running; you only need two megabytes. When you add WiFi to that it only increases the ability to roll them out very quickly.

IY: Does that mean that they've got an embedded browser now and WiFi connectivity?

WN: Well on XP embedded, Linux and Windows CE, yes you would have an embedded internet browser so XP embedded in CE would have Internet Explorer where as Linux might have Mozilla Firefox. Then with Wyse Thin OS you would actually run your browser from the server using either VMware, Citrix or Microsoft terminal server.

IY: OK. That's just one less problem with wiring that means you can locate these things in strange places like warehouse floors, point of sale; places where it's really hard to get a wire.

WN: Certainly. We really noticed it when we did the Citrix solution show in the US where they wanted to put a bunch of Wyse terminals around the show for people to use kind of like internet kiosks. Just to pull them out of the box, turn them on plug them in, connect them wirelessly to the network, downloaded the images that they need, and away they go. It was very automated and you didn't really need an IT specialist, just anybody that could take the terminal out of the box, plug it in and we were up and running very quickly to do a trade show or labs at a school or something like that. You can pack them up and take them down very quickly too.

IY: Yeah I guess if you are somewhere where you are going to be permanently occupying copper is a bit faster so people might wire things up. But there are some buildings that you want to occupy that you can't drill holes in. I am thinking Heritage listed. I was once working at a University which contained a lot of sandstone buildings where drills were not allowed.

WN: Absolutely. Well thin clients, a big market for them is harsh environments so manufacturing plants... kind of the not so sexy companies do a lot of thin clients so manufacturing plants and assembly plants and car dealerships and that sort of thing. So WiFi is a big deal for them because they might not have walls to run the wire through. Like big manufacturing floors or places that have a lot of forklifts and that kind of thing; WiFi is a big deal for them as well.

IY: And I guess they are not so fussed about having the old full-featured complete PC. I know you can run those things on thin clients but they wouldn't be doing that anyway. They are not going to be running Photoshop are they?

WN: Absolutely right. They just want a terminal that is not worried about heat or dust or banging around. They don't have hard drives in them so you can put them on the back of a forklift and that kind of thing. They just want to get to their work and get it done as opposed to play movies or music and all that. You can certainly still do that on a thin client but for the harsh environment people, they like the simplicity and the robustness of the thin client.

IY: So obviously the next thing they would really be after is a WiFi thin client laptop and I bet you've got one coming?

WN: We are working on it. I don't have any details at this point but it's all on the R&D machine but you will see one from us I am sure.

IY: Yeah I can just think of environments where that would be kind of handy. I am thinking mining booms.

WN: Certainly. Harsh environments where people drive out to the mine, have to collect some data and want to bring it back; to have no hard drive, the size and importance and cost of the data that I could imagine those guys would be collecting. You would want something that is fairly safe and fail proof.

This interview originally ran on ITRadio.com.au's A Series of Tubes podcast, which can be downloaded here.



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