A buzzword that has been thrown up by the struggle of some computer manufacturers to create an alternative to the PC. The driving force is the desire to limit Microsoft’s control of the desktop software market through its Windows operating system, and Intel’s dominance of microprocessor production (the two together are often referred to as Wintel). A thin client is another term for the network computer or NC, a stripped-down computer without local storage facilities. Data, and the applications to manipulate it, are downloaded to these “client” machines from central network servers. Derided when it was first proposed, the concept has won the support of many large companies, who need to reduce the cost of providing computers to staff. The term came about as a mocking alternative to what its proponents see as fat clients: conventional PCs with large amounts of memory, disk storage and other facilities running Microsoft Windows. One of the key attributes of the network computer, it is argued, is that it will use communications mechanisms similar to those employed by the Internet; if applications are written in the generalised Java language, it is claimed client machines don’t require any particular microprocessor inside them and so removes dependence on Intel microprocessors.
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