SCO offers Unix package

The Santa Cruz Operation which already has a stake in Internet computing entered the embryonic network computer market last week with a Unix-based software package tailored for Internet access devices.

The Network Client Operating System (NC/OS) combines SCO Unix software Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator client software Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java software and transmission control protocol/Internet protocol networking to give users an Internet platform with a very small footprint.

NC/OS is intended to run on Internet access devices - so-called network computers - produced by IBM Corp. Sun and other computer manufacturers. But SCO said it anticipates a myriad of client devices in addition to network computers including hand-held computers in the battlefield. Network computers are billed as low-cost Internet access devices but also could appeal to federal users as hardware-independent computing platforms.

The concept behind the network computer - server-centric computing and hardware-independent client access - will change the computer industry fundamentally "even if the network computer design never takes off " said Doug Michels executive vice president and chief technical officer at SCO.

Earlier this year SCO announced a family of Internet products that can be layered on top of SCO's OpenServer Unix operating system which is designed for Intel-based computers.

With its new Internet product SCO plans to establish original equipment manufacturing relationships with a wide number of hardware manufacturers systems integrators and value-added resellers. Those companies will be able to package the software to meet the needs of their own audience. For NC/OS SCO provides a 1.5M version of its Unix operating system.

Network Computer

The network computer is designed to run Java-based applications which generally are called applets. Java applets reside on a World Wide Web server not the client until a user needs to download and run it.That model requires very little resources on the user's end which allows manufacturers to create inexpensive and if required very portable devices. Java runs on any platform with a 32-bit operating system.

Java makes the network computer a good compromise between client- and host-centric computing models Michels said. The Java applet as long as it is being used runs like a client-based application. However the applet otherwise resides on the server which allows for effective host-based management.

The model is similar to X-terminal computing which blossomed as a market several years ago but has since lost some of its momentum. However unlike the X-terminal market the network computer has inspired a lot of software vendors to invest time and money into developing supporting products Michels said. For example Corel plans to release a Java-based version of its WordPerfect word processing software he said.

Federal AppealHardware independence makes the network computer an especially promising concept in the federal market because it does not tie an agency to a particular vendor Michels said. That "gives the government the freedom to make procurements across multiple platforms " he said.

More important the network computer model itself is not tied to any particular hardware configuration. An Internet software package can be embedded in a variety of systems from hand-held computers to the tactical systems of a tank.

Federal agencies probably will not be spending a lot of money on Internet access devices in the near future but that could change said Vicky Page senior research analyst at IDC Government Market Services.

Most agencies are well-stocked with computers already and have not become very dependent on the Internet in their day-to-day business Page said. "As the dependence on the Internet for business related processes [and applications] grows that will evolve into the need for those kinds of devices " Page said.

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