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Where Are the Cheap Thin Clients?

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the can't-be-too-rich-either dept.

IT 349

Darren Ginter writes "I find many aspects of desktop virtualization compelling, with one exception: the cost of the thin clients, which typically exceeds that of a traditional box. I understand all of the benefits of desktop virtualization (and the downsides, thanks) but I'm very hung up on spending more for less. While there are some sub-$200 products out there, they all seem to cut corners (give me non-vaporware that will drive a 22" LCD at full resolution). I can PXE boot a homebrew Atom-based thin client for $130, but I'd prefer to be able to buy something assembled. Am I missing something here?"

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other costs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30502994)

We usually use WYSE clients and you might be right, however, don't forget to sum up additional costs for traditional hardware, such as maintenance (drives, fans)

Re:other costs (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503008)

A PXE-booted Atom board has neither drives nor fans.

Re:other costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503148)

way to miss the point

Re:other costs (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503288)

Isn't the point to keep the cost of a thin client really thin?

Yes (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30502996)

Am I missing something here?

A cheap thin client?

*ducks*

It's like bicycles... (4, Insightful)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 4 years ago | (#30502998)

The more you pay, the less you get.

Though not for the same reason. You get a complete PC for less than a thin client because complete PCs are made in insanely high volumes compared to thin clients, which are a niche item.

Re:It's like bicycles... (4, Interesting)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503044)

The more you pay, the less you get.

Though not for the same reason. You get a complete PC for less than a thin client because complete PCs are made in insanely high volumes compared to thin clients, which are a niche item.

Er, sorry. I consider dual-socket desktops with 64GB of RAM and 8 cores attached to a 30" monitor running 3D CAD programs a "niche" item. Thin-client hardware has been around now for at least 10 years. I'm struggling to find the connection there, especially when those that truly find the value in deploying this hardware usually do so with an order for hardware in the hundreds or thousands.

They charge what they want to charge more likely because companies like WYSE know that when you buy their hardware, the functional lifespan is likely 2 to 3 times that of a traditional desktop, and it's gonna be a while before you're knocking on their door for a purchase again.

Re:It's like bicycles... (2, Informative)

bigsteve@dstc (140392) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503108)

I'm struggling to find the connection there ...

The comparison is not with massively over-spec'ed gaming machines or CAD monsters. It is with the bottom end desktop boxes, etcetera that millions of office workers use.

Two of the factors that drive price in the PC marketplace are competition and scale. On the one hand, if WYSE (or whoever) are the only people selling thin client machines, then they don't need to worry about competitors undercutting them. On the other hand is WYSE is only selling low volumes of thin client machines (because most customers are buying regular desktops/laptops/notebooks/whatever), then they have to sell them at a higher price to recoup development costs, costs of setting up production lines, costs of buying components in smaller volumes, marketing costs and so on.

Re:It's like bicycles... (4, Informative)

Znork (31774) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503258)

It is with the bottom end desktop boxes

Which usually contain COTS hardware. Which a thin client can also use today. Like the submitter said, slapping together a thin client is easy.

they have to sell them at a higher price to recoup development costs

There are basically no development costs in this case, nor are the components high margin enough that production volume can make a significant difference in purchasing price. We're not talking special hardware here, we're talking miniITX/laptop MB's which are produced in the bazillions range whether or not a thin client producer uses them.

Personally I'd say the higher price is because the target market is almost fully corporate and corporate purchasers usually have difficulty comparing prices with anything that's not explicitly listed as equivalent. Which gets you the old triple-the-list-price and then let them negotiate a 50% discount and the customer will feel good about his leet bargaining skillz.

Re:It's like bicycles... (2, Informative)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503308)

Chip PC [chippc.com] also sell thin client machines. I don't know how the price compares to Wyse. They don't sell direct, so you need to contact one of their resellers.

Re:It's like bicycles... (3, Informative)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503462)

People are looking in the wrong place. Move outside Intel and AMD.

$99 for a computer in a keyboard [linuxfordevices.com] from Norhtec [norhtec.com] . (In fact, the prototype is still linked in my sig, but I have no connection to the company.) Video is available at Linux For Devices, but the Gecko Surfboard doesn't appear to be listed on tNorhtec's site yet.

Re:It's like bicycles... (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503248)

The more you pay for a bicycle the less you get? What on Earth are you talking about?

The only way that makes sense is if you are only referring to weight, but that is an undesired quality, and something the engineers try to reduce.

It is like saying that the more you spend on a computer, the less slowness you get.

Re:It's like bicycles... (4, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503324)

The more you pay for a bicycle the less you get? What on Earth are you talking about?

The most expensive bicycles are not full-suspension mountain bikes that can go anywhere. They are racing bikes with few gears and really suited only for flat terrain (although with a sufficiently powerful "motor" you can go up hills, of course.) So yes, the more you pay, the less you get. It's not just weight, but it's largely because of weight.

Re:It's like bicycles... (1)

moonbender (547943) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503442)

Racing bikes with no gears, my biking-geek friends tell me.

Re:It's like bicycles... (5, Funny)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503452)

> The more you pay for a bicycle the less you get? What on Earth are you talking about?

It works exactly the same for bikinis, really.

What did you expect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503000)

Buzz is expensive and somebody's gotta pay for it.

Re:What did you expect? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503096)

Yes reinventing the past is lucrative and so much fun.
Cheap Thin Clients are cheap in terms of ... ?
The big box that they connect to?
The applications?
The end users 'box'?
This is the new gold rush and your it :)

Nettops? (4, Interesting)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503006)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nettop [wikipedia.org]

Comes assembled, quite cheap, can drive usual resolutions, often Atom/x86 compatibility...typically has few redundant things though, like HDD; but that might be useful, together with x86, in case you change your mind.

Cart before the horse? Use a PC if its cheaper! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503010)

To me the compelling aspect of virtualisation for the desktop is to be able to use a standard computer to access specialised systems, such as CAD (check out RHEV with SPICE), legacy software or test environments. At work our conference room PC's are actually normal PC's that connect to a 'conference' room virtual machine, it allows instant display of said specialised systems without effort.

AB

Do you need an actual thin client? (1)

gadget junkie (618542) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503064)

I found out recently a reseller here in Italy distributing the Ncomputing client, [ncomputing.com] which strictly speaking is not a computer, rather a screen repeater; I've had the occasion to try it , and it worked fine for a small office, especially if there are security considerations involved, since there's an actual box that does not have an USB port; there' s no way to take data out except via email.
The price is quite reasonable, [kernelsoftware.com] and for the vast majority of office work it's vastly simpler than virtualization via the usual suspects.

Re:Do you need an actual thin client? (1)

cr_nucleus (518205) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503210)

there' s no way to take data out except via email.

And maybe using a camera. Guess you forgot all those spy movies from previous century :)

Re:Do you need an actual thin client? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503396)

These devices are rubbish. I do not recommend anyone buy them.

In the queue... (1)

Goffee71 (628501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503022)

...waiting for a skinny latte and no-meat salad?

1996 called, (4, Insightful)

type40 (310531) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503024)

they want their "future of desktop computing" back.
Seriously, I remember talking with some IBM engineers back in high-school and they were so certain that thin clients were the hot new thing that would change the face of computing.

You want to know where to buy thin clients? Goto www.dell.com and buy the cheapest POS they have with a fast network card. Thin clients will always be a more expensive niche player to the PC. After all what is a thin client? A PC with no local storage that can only work if it has a network connection.

Re:1996 called, (4, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503056)

err no they aren't. you can buy an entry level thin client for $99.

thin clients never caught on because not enough MCSE's get taught about them and the CIO doesn't like all the restrictions it puts on his playing of porn.

in environment's where things like CAD are used thin clients aren't a viable option (yet), but for a lot of businesses it's by far the best way to go.

Re:1996 called, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503266)

Actually for most businesses it's probably not the best way to go but the cheapest for IT. If you look at it from the client's viewpoint - why should I rely on IT to provide me with a service that is limited by IT and generally aimed at how IT see the need? Or to put it another way, if you are old enough do you remember Green Screen computing?

It may be easier to support; it may mean greater security; but if it doesn't offer enough stuff that those pesky users want then it will be resisted and then subverted. IT Departments cannot impose there will on their clients in the long term.

Re:1996 called, (2, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503478)

but if it doesn't offer enough stuff that those pesky users want then it will be resisted and then subverted.

They're supoosed to get what they need, not what they want. The don't need dancing pigs.

IT Departments cannot impose there will on their clients in the long term.

Finance can (we're using this because it's cheaper), Legal can (installing unauthorized software puts the company at risk) and HR can (if you don't like it, then get out).

IT just needs to convince them.

Re:1996 called, (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503318)

Fine but why does the secretary, accounting, and the boss need full blown computers? When all they use is MS office, and a web browser?

Re:1996 called, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503334)

Because you have to pay $149 for one TS Client Access License. Additionally not all MS Office licenses can be used in Terminal Services environment.

Re:1996 called, (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503352)

Accounting needs different machines for legal reasons; unfortunately they're usually windows, which throws any theories about it being for security out of the window. The boss should have his own machine for the same reason; it shouldn't run windows either, and for the same reason. Bosses often play with other software when they should be doing real work, e.g. MS Project.

Re:1996 called, (4, Informative)

Keruo (771880) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503344)

The problem with thin clients isn't the lack of knowledge. It's the break-even point.
In order for thin clients to become more affordable than deploying standalone workstations, you need to deploy atleast 200 of them, and 200 workstations rules out a lot of businesses.
Cost of licensing and server infrastructure is really the problem, not the cost of thin clients themselves.

economies of scale (2, Informative)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503026)

development costs, tooling, bespoke firmware, safety testing, promotion and the cost of supporting another range of kit.

All these costs are largely independent of the number of units produced, yet must be recouped from their sales. By buying a dedicated thin client, you have to bear your share of the product development. Since thin clients sell far fewer units than PCs these costs are higher.

Re:economies of scale (2, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503138)

I don't think that argument holds water. After all, the parts that go in thin clients are the same parts that go in PCs, so that can't be the difference. Then there are some custom things, such as the case, but if you consider the countless PC cases, motherboards, etc. etc. already out there, I think that, even though total volume for PCs may be higher than total volume for thin clients, the volume for a given combination of parts that make up a PC isn't necessarily higher than the volume for a given combination of parts that make up a thin client. I think thin clients cost more simply because their target market will bear higher costs (if you are a large company or government agency, spending a hundred dollars more or less on your thin clients isn't such a big deal).

Re:economies of scale (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503426)

I don't think that argument holds water. After all, the parts that go in thin clients are the same parts that go in PCs, so that can't be the difference.

I don't see where the parent poster even mentioned the cost of the parts as being part of the cost difference.

Re:economies of scale (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503504)

Yes you're right. I specifically omitted the cost of parts for exactly those reasons.

Re:economies of scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503360)

Since thin clients sell far fewer units than PCs these costs are higher.

i struggle with this arguement. yes, thin client devices sell fewer units than PC devices, but the components are the same/similar and in the thin client many are lower spec or removed. look at the netbooks, they sell them cheaper than a desktop PC but are relatively niche in comparison. even then netbooks have more processor, memory and storage than the thin client needs, yet are still cheaper.

makes no sence unless there is some highly specialised, expensive, non-commodity hardware components in a thin client, which as far as im aware there isn't. if there is, why has no one said so as this would be the explaination the OP seeks?

what the fuck are you on about. (-1, Flamebait)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503028)

try google motherfucker - http://www.vecmar.com/products/productpage.asp?pid=4769&source=nextag [vecmar.com]

it was the first link. and that's not even at volume prices, i'm sure if you forked out for a few 1000 at a time you'd pay even less.

Re:what the fuck are you on about. (1)

koekepeer (197127) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503080)

I don't see how this topic is related to having sexual intercourse with your mother.

Pipe down, this is a grownup conversation (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503098)

I have two suggestions: grow up, and learn to read. The guy is pricing new hardware. The system you found is a remanufactured out-of-production unit; even if it were brand new, it doesn't appear to meet his specs. A brand new system from the same manufacturer runs $350 or so.

Re:Pipe down, this is a grownup conversation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503118)

Where'd he say he's pricing new hardware?

What he does say is he's looking for stuff that can drive a 22" at full res.

Re:Pipe down, this is a grownup conversation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503194)

Where'd he say he's pricing new hardware?

What he does say is he's looking for stuff that can drive a 22" at full res.

Fair. So in that case quoting from your original link:

- Microsoft Windows CE Operating System
- Industry-standard operating system. Delivers simple integration of legacy systems with Windows 2000
- Two USB ports, 10/100 BaseT Fast Ethernet

Yea, and this device can't even do that.

Re:what the fuck are you on about. (1)

citizenr (871508) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503104)

Sorry motherfucker, but WYSE 3200LE cant run 1680x1050, has 233MHz and is refurbished CRAP.

Re:what the fuck are you on about. (1)

revengebomber (1080189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503144)

The client you linked to is about 10 years old. It offers "integration of legacy systems with Windows 2000," and comes in attractive beige plastic. It even carries a Win___ name! Considering that a throwaway cellphone you get from Verizon has about twice as much CPU power as this thing, it's definitely not "cheap" for $100.

...shit bitch motherfucker.

Smaller is cheaper (1)

delirium of disorder (701392) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503032)

I find many aspects of smart phones compelling, with one exception: the cost of the phones [google.com] , which typically exceeds that of a traditional box [system76.com] . I understand all of the benefits of smart phones (and the downsides, thanks) but I'm very hung up on spending more for less.

You have to pay more to fit all that technology into a smaller package! If you don't care about space, just run a virtualized desktop on traditional desktop hardware.

BTW I would recommend diskless workstations [disklessworkstations.com] for thin clients. They may not be the cheapest, but they are full featured, fairly affordable, and well supported.

Re:Smaller is cheaper (1)

delirium of disorder (701392) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503040)

Bah...meant to title it smaller != cheaper...o well.

Re:Smaller is cheaper (1)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503222)

I find many aspects of smart phones compelling, with one exception: the cost of the phones [google.com], which typically exceeds that of a traditional box [system76.com].

...perhaps you should look at media players that do nearly everything except phone and GPS for 1/3 the price. (e.g. c.f. the price of an iPhone vs. an iPod Touch - or the HTC Hero vs. the non-Apple media player of your choice).

One does wonder whether the prices of phones are kept artificially high to encourage people to get them on contract...

You're not missing anything (0)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503050)

$200, $300 is missing the point. If you've going VDI, most of the money will be spent in training the end user, in the displays and their mounting. In most cases the deployment costs more than the thin client. The thin client is a trivial part of the cost, and you might as well get a good one.

Re:You're not missing anything (4, Informative)

OolimPhon (1120895) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503178)

Eh? Don't know what you're on about. I'm sitting here posting this on a thin client. I have a standard PC keyboard, monitor and mouse. I am looking at a normal PC session (in my case Gnome on Linux, but whatever). No retraining required, either for software or hardware. My hardware is an old PC with nothing but the motherboard left in it, running LTSP client. Cost me effectively nothing.

Re:You're not missing anything (1)

OolimPhon (1120895) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503188)

Oh, and boots in 35 seconds.

Re:You're not missing anything (2, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503234)

$200, $300 is missing the point. If you've going VDI, most of the money will be spent in training the end user, in the displays and their mounting.

You can regularly get quite decent 22" LCDs for under $200 now. So, no, the thin client is a massive part of the cost, and the whole point of moving to them is that the maintenance costs decrease.

use hybrid. SUNRAYs rock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503052)

slim hardware, no moving parts. Hot desking is wicked.

Re:use hybrid. SUNRAYs rock (1)

alexandre_ganso (1227152) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503156)

I was thinking about this, as we have some hundred of those.

Then I remembered how crappy their "java desktop environment" is and how slow the whole thing is in general. Actually, it sucks hard.

Re:use hybrid. SUNRAYs rock (1)

Moxon (139555) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503390)

I'm much more happy with ours after we moved the servers to RHEL (and ~5 years more recent hardware).. We even get proper Gnome now :)

Slow news day? (2, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503058)

Well here you go [surpluscomputers.com] a 1.7GHz off lease Compaq desktop for a whole $75 with shipping. That is pretty much the only choice if you don't want to DIY, because thin clients are a niche that will cost you $$$ that it doesn't sound like you are willing to spend. This is small, can fit under a monitor, and has 20Gb of local storage. Perfect for a thin client.

The simple fact is that is as cheap as you're gonna get, because PCs have economies of scale and thin clients don't. If you just have to have an OEM thin client be prepared to shell out the $$$ buddy.

Re:Slow news day? (1)

moonbender (547943) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503456)

Comes with 1 "monitor" output, which I assume means D-BUS. Not a very good solution. Not to mention driving more than one display, or running Linux. It is cheap though, I'll give you that.

Re:Slow news day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503496)

Thanks but no thanks. That is the equivalent of a Hummer: Big, ugly, slow, loud and consumes energy like no tomorrow. It will cost more in electricity in one year than you paid for the hardware.

What's missing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503072)

The bandwidth requires to drive multiple thin-clients at full resolution.

I'm Confused (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503076)

What are the benefits of desktop virtualization? As they apply to you, that is. Every user of this technology that I know of is a big company or school that needs to deploy hundreds (sometimes thousands!) of desktop systems, and often can't afford to have an IT guy at every site. That's why they're willing to pay a premium price for the thin clients — it's more than offset by lower "cost of ownership".

Even if do have a use for DV that isn't obvious to me, you might as well do it with PCs. The only catch with them is that you have to install the client software on each PC. Thin clients are for people who don't want to do that.

Re:I'm Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503280)

If you think that anyone has to install anything on each PC, despite PXE booting being mentioned in the question, you are indeed confused. You can roll your own "thin client" and have all the same central management comfort that a "real" thin client system gives you. You need a very low end PC minus the hard disk, set the BIOS to boot from the network and the rest is server-side.

Re:I'm Confused (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503294)

Also groups like this have an overall budget, but it is split into portions- purchase of physical goods, purchases of services, and payroll money. Which is why a local university is fighting with the budget guys to stop paying $300k a year for licenensing their learning management system/course delivery system, adopt a F/OSS solution, and spend an extra $200k per year on a couple of developers to make customizations, etc. Sure it looks like an overall savings of $100k per year, but the $200k people money comes from a different pool than the $300k license money...

Re:I'm Confused (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503382)

What are the benefits of desktop virtualization? As they apply to you, that is.

No desktops to screw up

Hardware failure? Replace the hardware from a spare, which takes less time and effort because the hardware is small and has few attached cables.

No data on the user's desktop which must be managed and backed up, ever

One big PC is actually cheaper than a lot of small PCs, though not very much cheaper. Still, a difference is a difference; I have yet to see a PC under $600 actually worth buying for corporate use, every attempt I've made in that direction has been disappointing if not disastrous. Thin clients, of course, are a bit different.

Go home brew (1)

bragr (1612015) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503090)

Personally, I don't see a problem with the home-brew solution. When you want something very specific, its often your only choice. Any it wouldn't be that hard either, you get a Mobo/CPU combo, case/PSU combo, and a stick of ram, it takes you 4 screws, and plugging 3 things, and 2 or 3 minutes in the BIOS.

Market Segmentation (4, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503122)

I think the explanation may be market segmentation. Thin clients are aimed at large organizations, where a few hundred dollars for a machine is chump change. They will happily buy greatly overpriced thin clients, because even the cost of an overpriced thin client on a desk is still dwarfed by the cost of the employee at the desk.

For home users, the picture is different, because they tend to see the computer in isolation. But the vast majority of home users wouldn't want to buy a thin client at any price, because they wouldn't know what to do with it.

If you want a cheap thin client, I would recommend to either buy one second hand (you can get them for under 100 dollars), or to just get whatever box you can and pretend it's a thin client.

stand of the shoulders of others (2, Informative)

seringen (670743) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503124)

Dave Richards is well known in the Gnome community for working with thin clients, specifically for the city of largo, florida. if you wanted some input on the subject you might want to ask him. he's on gnome's planet, or http://davelargo.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]

Sun Ray's work well and are cheap (4, Informative)

therus121 (536202) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503128)

Have a look at the 'Sun Rays' from Sun - they've been around for years; they are cheap and very reliable: http://www.sun.com/software/index.jsp?cat=Desktop&subcat=Sun%20Ray%20Clients [sun.com] The prices shown on the Sun site are list-price - we get a Very healthy discount off of this, which brings the prices down even further.

Re:Sun Ray's work well and are cheap (5, Interesting)

up4fun (602118) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503184)

I agree with this, too. The sunrays are excellent.

But I think the OP is still missing something here. The transition to VDI is not just about replacing one box with another doing the same old same old. It is also an opportunity to start to transition away from local storage, login, screen savers, etc. While there are many many advantages at the back end, there are also some significant gains at the front-end, too.

As an example, the sun rays have card readers that allow you to authenticate to the back-end very quickly. Using this feature you can roll out always-on desktops that let your users sit down at a desk, any desk, pop their card in and get their desktop, just as they left it, anywhere. As they get up, their card goes with them. No need for screen savers and the whole thing is very very fast. This kind of facility is a big win for our users. No more logins! No more password resets!

So perhaps consider VDI as a way to seriously improve the end-user experience of computing.

D

Re:Sun Ray's work well and are cheap (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503310)

With the right hardware present, the rest of this is all software. A fast-boot thin Linux on an SD card can run in 1GB ... 4GB might be nice to help X do more caching. That should be doable right inside the monitor case these days (use COTS keyboard/mouse).

32x32 (1, Troll)

WGFCrafty (1062506) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503142)

(give me non-vaporware that will drive a 22" LCD at full resolution)

K.

Will 32x32 (1024) pixels be enough? We can use a TI-83, not even silver, to accomplish this!

Oh, you mean you wanted a non-stupid resolution. As far as I'm concerned "full resolution" means the maximum native resolution a monitor can output.

Re:32x32 (2, Insightful)

Jerry Smith (806480) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503302)

(give me non-vaporware that will drive a 22" LCD at full resolution)

K. Will 32x32 (1024) pixels be enough? We can use a TI-83, not even silver, to accomplish this! Oh, you mean you wanted a non-stupid resolution. As far as I'm concerned "full resolution" means the maximum native resolution a monitor can output.

Erm, yeah, I guess he expected non-stupid reactions, from people who'd automatically assume a 1920 × 1080 resolution.

We've been here before... (1)

CaptainOfSpray (1229754) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503192)

The "thin client" meme goes back to well before 1993 (when the phrase was coined), and has never caught on. All the reasons why it did not catch on still apply. Mostly, the saving on hardware cost gets lost in the overall cost of the project, plus, the flexibility of conventional PCs (tuning the client installation to the needs of the specific department, and retuning every time the business need changes) has a value that massively outweighs the saving in hardware cost. Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past (yes, I know it's a paraphrase).

Re:We've been here before... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503246)

Everybody claims they are special and need tweaks but in reality that is not really true. Some need tweaks, so here's a worst case scenario: a if you actually need to tweak things for each department as you said, (assuming 100 employees per department, 8 departments) you still only need twice as many servers as departments; 16 machines is is a nice improvement from your previous 800 machines.

I would like to raise another voice for SunRays that is mentioned elsewhere. They work like a charm and run forever.

Re:We've been here before... (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503430)

In 1993 there weren't several virtualisation solutions that the thin client can use. We use thin clients at work connecting to VMWare servers and they're just as good for the average employee as a desktop without all the aggravation that goes with having several hundred corporate PCs to maintain.

Thinnish thick clients. (3, Informative)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503202)

A minor computer firm is subcontracted to assemble cheapest PCs. They build normal self-contained PCs running the cheapest OEM Windows available. These are $80(+OS) machines running on parts that are a storage surplus after they went out of sale. Then they install the "thin client" software which is some kind of Telnet or VNC or a web browser with intranet connection, pointed at a PHP web app.

So basically the employee boots up the computer normally, starts the app fullscreen and does most of the work remotely.

This has several advantages. The workstations can be troubleshooted locally. They can back up your work if network connection goes down. They allow for custom PC hardware (card readers, barcode scanners, webcams for teleconferencing and so on). They can be upgraded if the need arises, and fixed using off-the-shelf hardware (unless it went so obsolete it's unobtainable). And due to economy of scale, they are cheaper than dedicated thin clients despite being way overpowered.

I've seen quite a few markets and institutions running a system like this.

Re:Thinnish thick clients. (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503260)

And they take up way more space and use way more energy than is necessary.

Re:Thinnish thick clients. (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503320)

If space taken up by the PC is of concern to you, your employees are cramped in way too little space anyway.
As for power, downclocked CPU, the hdd set to spin down pretty fast and such mitigate most of the problem. In my climate, over most of the year power-hungry appliances mean just that much savings on heating anyway.

Re:Thinnish thick clients. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503336)

They allow for custom PC hardware (card readers, barcode scanners, webcams for teleconferencing and so on).

Card readers and barcode scanners are keyboard devices. You can get them with USB these days. In fact, I've got a USB CueCat.

Webcams are a bit tricky, but they should be highly doable with the new FUSE character device support. That is a good point, though.

I know where they are (1)

Josh04 (1596071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503218)

In the bin behind somewhere which realised how useless they are. That's where I got my three SunRay 1's :P

virtualised setup even (2, Interesting)

gedw99 (1597337) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503232)

I agree fully.

With the KVM & the new spice drives, you can virtualise even your HTPC !!
It does HD quality video over my network with no problem.
This is in the basement.

So all i need on All dekstops is a very simple thin client.
100 mbit nic
hdmi.

Re:virtualised setup even (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503376)

it does htdv quality?
you sure?
spice works mostly with lossless compression, but has algorithms to detect areas with lots of updates.
it compresses those updates with mpeg, so it's a lossy compression.
so you're not really having hdtv quality :)
you need a gigabit for a 1440x900 video when using remote X connections.
add some lossless compression and differential algorithms if you want (basically: spice), but a 100mb will hardly support a full-screen hdtv video.
not to mention, full hdtv is 1980x1080, so even worse.

Why HTPC? (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503520)

'Thin-client' goes a bit far there. My HTPC is a diskless client that netboots a MythFrontend. This way, I transfer the pre-compressed streams (which will always be able to be more efficient than any real-time compression) to my box. The box has no storage and the computational complexity required is sufficiently low to avoid overly loud noise.

CapEx vs OpEx (5, Insightful)

Krokant (956646) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503240)

Don't forget that the biggest cost in a client is not necessarily the purchasing of the hardware (which is obviously the most visibile cost). Various studies (Gartner, IDC, ...) indicate that a PC that is purchased for $500 (one-time cost) in fact costs somewhere between $1500 and $4500 per year (!) to manage. These hidden costs are mainly into the backend infrastructure supporting these PC's in corporate environments, people managing them, deploying software on them, ... Google for desktop TCO and you'll find plenty of information. Sure, you might disagree with the exact numbers provided by a Gartner /IDC /Forrester but at least it gives an indication.

For thin clients (and desktop virtualization for that matter), this is also where the cost savings are. No serious VDI vendor will tell you that the CapEx (investment in hardware, licenses,...) is cheaper with thin clients and virtual desktops: you need to buy additional licenses, you're going to run desktops on server hardware (ok, 100 at a time on the same box) and then I still didn't start about the licensing galore (Microsoft VECD, Citrix XenDesktop or VMware View or...). The real cost savings are in the fact that it's much easier to manage, and being able to let your very expensive system administators do something else than troubleshooting a desktop (which costs you twice for the end-user downtime and the sysadmin troubleshooting it).

The same goes for thin clients: the up-front investment is larger, but they are very easy to manage (plug into the network and the thing autoconfigures itself, pointing you to your virtual desktop -- which means fewer expensive sysadmin interventions on-site for replacing hardware!), they live longer compared to traditional desktops (these used to have three-year lifecycles whereas thin clients typically have a five-year lifecycle -- roughly speaking you'll need to buy two traditional desktops for one thin client in a 5-year desktop lifespan; I'll concur to the fact that with the economic situation, you'll see prolongued lifetimes for both thin clients & desktops but the idea remains the same, numbers might differ today).

So is the thin client cheaper? In most situations and looking at the total picture, sure it is. Even despite a higher up-front investment. The real problem is not really the price of a thin client but whether your applications and IT environment support thin clients/server based computing (TS/Citrix/VDI).

Sidenote: I work for a consulting firm where I work a lot with VDI & Server Based Computing in general; we strive to be independent as possible (trying to nuance the vendor claims as much as possible for our clients) but that might mean I am a bit biased towards using SBC if it works ;)

Refurbished? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503268)

P4/512megs/XPpro/20gighhds business class refurbs for $60 plus a $60 15" lcd monitor and strip out what you don't like. I looked around and got an off lease IBM full of bells and whistles for $120. But I could have pulled all the excess parts, closed the holes and been left with a P4 3.0 with HT, 1gig memory, 10/100/1000 LAN, ATI graphics and onboard sound, four usb 2.0 ports, front mounted mic and headphone ports. That would be more than enough to boot a image off the network and use it for light duty.

That's because thin clients are PCs... (3, Insightful)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503284)

"I find many aspects of desktop virtualization compelling, with one exception: the cost of the thin clients, which typically exceeds that of a traditional box.

Thing is, if you're using office productivity apps or database front ends (the usual applications for desktop virtualization) then the most computationally intensive part of the job is probably rendering the user interface - so your thin client needs to have pretty much the same CPU and GPU clout as the desktop it is replacing. The Flash RAM costs as much as 10x the amount of HD storage and (since most people expect Thin Clients to be Thin) you're probably paying a premium for laptop-class components. The only real saving is DRAM - which is dirt cheap.

Also, since the main market for these is corporate, any retail prices you see will be inflated so that corporate clients can be offered a nice "discount".

Thin clients, a dime a dozern (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503286)

My suggestion:

Step 1: Realize that almost nobody wants a laptop that has a busted screen, as it is often more expensive to replace the screen/backlight than it is to get a new laptop
Step 2: Hop on eBay and purchase fully functional laptops with busted screens, with the intent of using the ubiquitous vga-out for your LCD monitor
Step 3: If they have their hard drives pulled, boot them from SD or PXE.
Step 4: Pat yourself on the back. You saved money, you recycled, and you basically have a mini-UPS system built into each machine.

Re:Thin clients, a dime a dozern (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503326)

You just ruined it for me by spilling the big secret. Now the prices for all those busted-screen laptops are going up. And I was working on building a super computer cluster of the bottoms.

Re:Thin clients, a dime a dozern (1)

shitzu (931108) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503440)

And that will very efficiently render all positive aspects of thin clients to ashes. Almost all of the reasons (in the way of TCO savings) of deploying thin clients in the first place rely on *the same hardware* running same configuration and system image. Running 200 broken laptops from ebay would be a fun sight, but would probably increase the cost ten times over traditional desktops, let alone thin clients.

VDI and regular computer (1)

AbbyNormal (216235) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503296)

Could do what we are planning and use existing workstations with VDI (http://www.vmware.com/products/view/features.html). Depending on your seat requirements, you may want to try pricing out a homegrown box of your own.

...cheaper? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503314)

a nice computer costs 1000+$
a good computer is 500+, usable 400+.
you get clients for less than 200.
that is *already* cheap, compared to the option of a full computer.
it's already less then half of what a full computer would cost.
if you want t3h ceapest, probably used computers are the only option.

a full 22" monitor usually means that you'll need at least a gigabit lan, a graphic card of at least 64mb, or a good cpu if you don't have enough graphic.
that's not so "thin" when you think about it.
now consider that the market is small compared to the pc market, and i don't think thinclients costs so much anymore.

Thin clients aren't fat enough for the cloud (1)

jabjoe (1042100) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503354)

The very people who think the cloud is the future, think everything will be written in .NET or JIT'ed javascript. Last few times the thin client idea failed it was because of control, but it seams like each time it comes back there is more over head (more than you might expect from Moore's law). This time I'm not convinced a thin client will cut it. What you need is native apps from a database, one safe place to find apps, and everything kept up to date......Wait that's a repository! Compare the two side by side, mmmmm, I'll use fast native apps from a repository please, especially on a crap machine!

PC Overt IP aims at that problem. (1)

maitas (98290) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503356)

But remember that retail price below 100 USD is extremely difficult becouse of shipping cost from Chine, retail space, etc.

I bought an ASUS Eee PC 900A refurbished for 149 USD from Ebay, so add a VNC client (or the Goole remote desktop software they have just opensourced) and you have a pretty decent solution.

The thin client idea is not about low price, is about beeing stateless. Here in Argentina I work with an ensurance company that has 100% of its apps web based, so they dont need and remote desktop solution, just a plain and simple browser (they can even use a chumby!).

It's all about TCO and maturity of client/server. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503370)

We are going towards thin clients and virtualized desktops at my workplace and I must say the price of the units are not that bad.
If you get some volume the actually cost quite a bit less than a SFF PC, at least the entry level ones.
I've been trying many of them (HP, Fujitsu, WYSE, Igel) out for quite a while and all of them can support 22" & 24" monitors at native resolutions.

One thing to bear in mind when talking thin clients are total cost of ownership (TCO)
The TCO of a thin client is far less than that of a PC.
Not only because the user can't mess it up and because it rarely breaks down, but mainly unit installation and systems management costs.
No need for endpoint security and expensive and complex distribution and inventory systems.
If you work in a large environment with many branch offices you see the advantages immediately.
There is basically no need for on site technicians what so ever.

For an organization they become cheaper to own in the end, which is why they are compelling.

The energy savings can also be substantial!
I have been running scans on our few thousands of PCs for a while and the actual CPU utilization is about 15% average (this is on four-five years old HW, mind you), and yet the users scream for new HW.
The real issue is network latency basically, which is why a centralized desktop solution with thin clients is perfect.
To be able to streamline the performance of the server cluster to the actual usage of the clients saves our medium business ten's of thousands dollars each year.

Couple this together with the fact that users get almost no network latency what so ever to databases and application servers and you have a sure business case.

They're being eclipsed by cheap traditional PC's (1)

intrico (100334) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503388)

You already included a link to $249 PC in your blurb, for example. $249 is dirt cheap when you look at how far prices have fallen over the past several years, and not far at all from the sub-$200 price point that you speak of. If the cost of a full-blown PC is already dirt-cheap, there will naturally be little economic incentive for a separate genre of thin client PC's.

Right here baby (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503404)

Here you go: http://www.norhtec.com/products/mctc/index.html

You're welcome.

Not about cheap hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503418)

The savings you can do with a thin client solution is not in the hardware, but in a more stable environment with less hassle for the user as well as support. I expect you to know this already, so what you need to do is to try to estimate total cost for a fat client solution compared to a thin client one and see if its profitable for you. The difference of a client for $200 or $90 every 4 year will not be what makes it viable or not.

Easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30503432)

> Am I missing something here?

Yes, a little thing called "mass production".

First, TCs are cheaper on the whole -- e.g. it's harder for a thief to steal a TC (because they suck without servers), replacing is basically zero-configuration etc. etc. The cost of the TC itself (the equipment) can be more expensive and yet the whole solution be more economical (there's a plethora of other economies not mentioned).

But, TCs are different -- which means they're not the commodity desktop PCs came to be.

If you want really cheap, buy mass-produced PCs (I believe we've seen them reach USD$200 in recent times). BTW, depending on a series of factors, your current PCs might turn cheaper or not -- but surely they would avoid an initial investment.

BUT: TCs are worthy as much as the central maintenance team. If you can't manage it well, TCs will flop...

Elementary, my dear Watson (1)

Ullteppe (953103) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503438)

Basically, the basis for thin clients making sense is the supposition that computing power is expensive (just as in the old mainframe days, when the premise was that making lots of terminals and then one big machine made economic sense). Guess what? That doesn't hold true anymore. Computing power is cheap. The "nicities" of good graphics support, decent I/O etc is more expensive than the processor. So why not include some decent processing power in the "thin client". In this case, it is just a regular low-end PC (stationary equivalent of a netbook) running terminal software.

The Ultimate Thin Client (1)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 4 years ago | (#30503476)

I think this has been missed, but Android, and Chrome OS are really thin clients to Google's cloud with minor local functionality.

The true NX type thin client, though good, is going the way of the Neanderthal.

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