I don’t care about thin client devices.
Don’t get me wrong—I think they’re very useful, and I often think about the different “types” of thin client devices (Linux vs. Java vs. WinCE vs. XP Embedded). However, I’ve never been able to get really excited about the various vendors’ thin client device models. To me, thin clients are just a commodity.
As I walked around the exhibit hall at iForum last month, I was approached by a lot (maybe ten) of various thin client device vendors. “Hi Brian. Come check out our stuff!” As far as I could tell, every thin client device from every vendor was basically the same. Most of them are even built with the same chipsets (Via, Transmeta, or Geode). I asked each vendor why I should buy their thin clients over another brand, and I got a lot of different answers. Some vendors said that they’ve been making thin client devices for 30 years, so they’re the most experienced. Others told me that their devices had the lowest prices.
This got me thinking. If these devices are commodities, then what’s the real difference between the various thin client device vendors? Is there even a difference, or is it just about price?
What about the management software? Is this a differentiator between brands or is all management software basically the same these days? And how can some vendors get away with not including their management software for free?
Most hardware vendors differentiate themselves based on their support and warranty offerings, but does this matter for thin clients?
Even more importantly, how can there be so many vendors in the thin client space? Will all these companies survive? What would happen to the market if Dell started making thin client devices?
Can today’s thin client makers survive without adding some significant intellectual property to their offerings? (What if someone like Neoware or Wyse bought Tarantella?)
I'm not sure what I think about all these questions, but I think it's a good conversation. Feel free to share your opinions in the comments section of this article.