Sidebar: Thin Clients

Technically, Mira is a "thin client" in Information Technology (IT) terms. According to National Semiconductor, whose Geode processor has more than 85% of the thin client market, a thin client is "a desktop device with nominal on-board computing power optimized for information access from a central server." Windows CE .Net running on a Geode or Xscale processor provides "nominal on-board computing power" compared to the Pentium 4 in a full PC ("fat client"). Remote Desktop Protocol (see the main article for more information) is what makes Mira "optimized for information access from a central server." In the case of Mira V1, it's a single-user server (the home PC). You won't ever see Mira referred to as a "thin client" by Microsoft, however, since it's an overly technical term that's incompatible with a friendly, home-oriented marketing pitch.

Thin clients are used in enterprise because they reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a computing solution. Thin client hardware is typically more than twice as reliable as a PC. With applications and data resident on a central sever, the per-user cost of management, support, downtime, backups and upgrades is reduced substantially. New versions of software are distributed to all thin clients simultaneously, which improves data exchange and collaboration. Thin clients don't need hard drives, CPU upgrades, or large amounts of memory, which makes them cheaper than a PC. Since there's no hard drive, data can't be lost due to hard drive failure. Thin client systems can grow by adding CPU power, memory and storage to the central server rather than upgrading every PC in the company. Thin clients are inherently more secure than PCs, since there's no removable storage.

The downside is that thin clients demand more (or more powerful) servers, and they tend to generate more network traffic. Knowledge professionals aren't good prospects for thin clients due to the wide range of software and processor-intensive applications they often need. Thin clients are especially appropriate in environments where there is heavy use of template applications, such as in the completion and processing of forms. The top six markets for thin clients are healthcare, financial services, retail point-of-sale, education (K-12), transportation and government agencies. The next time you're in a retail chain store such as Mattress Discounters, check out the "PC-like" device on which the salesperson is entering your sale. Chances are it's a thin client, probably one made by Wyse Technology, since they have more than 50% of the thin client market.

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