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In a slim way, IBM is getting back into the personal computing business
through a new partnership with Wyse Technology, the market leading
provider of thin client systems. Under a new alliance, IBM will resell
direct and through partners Wyse thin client technology in
service-oriented engagements.

IBM has been focused on building out its Virtualized Infrastructure
Access (VIA) initiative, a series of solutions designed to optimize and
enable data center driven application delivery and simplified systems
management.

Wyse’s desktop and notebook thin client technology fills a critical
gap in IBM’s VIA strategy by providing both the software layer and
hardware devices for arm business users with thin client computing,
streaming applications and virtualized desktop environments.

“IBM is responding to customers’ wishes to deploy thin client
technologies, but can afford the data center deployment on something
like the Citrix model,” says Jeff McNaught, chief marketing and
security officer at Wyse.

In addition to reselling Wyse products, IBM will work with Wyse to
develop thin client solutions, application streaming applications and
new client hardware that extend the usability and value of thin client
architecture.

Wyse’s thin client operating system and technology provides a useful
layer that extends the life of legacy systems while capturing the
benefits of thin client economies, says Jan Jackman, vice president of
global end users services at IBM Global Technology Services.
Virtualization is consolidating and optimizing the data center, but
many of the existing applications require modification before they can
be streamed to desktops and end points. Wyse’s technology can stream
legacy apps, giving users valuable time to make changes to their
applications.

“Thirty years of applications have been written for a fat client and
they can’t be rewritten overnight,” she says. “Application stream
allows for the use of the current applications while legacy apps are
rewritten for a SOA [service oriented architecture],” Jackman says.

Over the past 12 months, thin client computing has gained interest
among business technology consumers looking to decrease their costs in
physical devices, endpoint management and power. Thin clients have a
TCO savings of 20 percent to 40 percent on reduced electrical
consumption. Additionally, management is simplified and reduced since
all maintenance happens in the data center and images are standardized.

Security is an added benefit to thin clients, particularly in
financial institutions and health care environments, where privacy and
data integrity is enhanced by the lack of disc-drives and USB ports on
the thin client end point.

“A lot of clients don’t have the technical capacity and would like
to buy computing as a service,” Jackman says. “As this trend evolves
and more services move to the cloud, the virtualized client will take
on greater interest.”

Ironically, IBM’s partnership with Wyse will pit it against its
former PC business unit now owned by Lenovo. IBM and Wyse say their VIA
solutions will look to replace PCs in certain environments, such as
call centers and banks. While thin clients are experiencing a bit of a
renaissance, PC manufacturers are experiencing steep declines in PC
sales – both desktop and notebooks – as business consumers extend the
life of existing clients. Analyst firm Gartner predicts PC sales will
decline nearly 12 percent this year.

“You probably could argue that with the promotion of the desktop
thin client model, especially since the beginning of the year, so you
have to ask where the thin client market overlaps with the conventional
PC market,” says Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT.

While IBM is targeting PC users with its thin client solutions, it
rejects the notion that it’s competing directly with PC manufacturers
such as Lenovo.

“We sold the PC business because it’s a commodity business and our
desires to move toward business in services and applications,” Jackman
says. “The Web has changed everything to be more services oriented.”

She adds, “This isn’t going to replace every PC, but it will replace
PC deployments in certain user groups and build out from there.”

Wyse is a leader in thin client devices and software. It competes
directly and indirectly with Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Sun Microsystems
and Lenovo.

“A lot of the vendors believe thin clients is the place to be over
the next 12 to 24 months, so they’re looking to embrace it,” King says

IBM will sell Wyse products and jointly developed thin client
solutions through its direct sales force as well as channel reseller
partners.