Network computer (abbreviated NC) is a trademark of Oracle Corporation. It was used (c. 1996 - c. 2000) by Oracle, and an alliance of businesses including Sun and Acorn, to mean a diskless desktop computer - or in some cases a set top box - meeting a particular minimum specification (see Network Computer Reference Profile). It was also employed as a marketing term to try to popularise this design of computer within businesses and among consumers (even though the essentials of the concept were not novel).

Due to the buzz created around the term, and the fact that diskless nodes can be used as thin clients, it has also been used more informally to mean simply a diskless desktop computer or a thin client.

Because many NCs did not use Intel CPUs or Microsoft software, Microsoft and Intel developed a competing standard called NetPC for the same market, in order to try not to lose too much of their enormous desktop computer market shares to the NC upstarts.

The NC brand was mainly intended to denote a range of desktop computers from various suppliers that - by virtue of their diskless design and use of inexpensive components and software - were supposed to be significantly cheaper and easier to manage than standard fat client PCs. However, due to the PC coming down in price, and due to the increasing availability and popularity of various options for using PCs as diskless nodes, thin clients and hybrid clients, the NC brand never achieved the popularity hoped for by Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison, and was eventually mothballed.


The failure of the NC to impact on the scale predicted by Larry Ellison may have been caused by a number of factors. Firstly, prices of PCs quickly fallen below $1000, making the competition very hard. Secondly, the software available for NCs was neither mature nor open.

Thirdly, the idea could simply have been ahead of its time, as at the NC's launch in 1996, the typical home Internet connection was only a 28.8 kbit/s modem dialup. This was simply insufficient for the delivery of executable content. The world wide web itself was not considered mainstream until its breakout year, 1998. Prior to this, very few Internet service providers advertised in mainstream press (at least outside of the USA), and knowledge of the Internet was limited. This could have held back uptake of what would be seen as a very niche device with no (then) obvious appeal.

Ironically, NCs ended up being used as the very 'dumb terminals' they were intended to replace, as the proprietary backend infrastructure is not readily available. 1990s era NCs are often network-booted into a minimal Unix with X, to serve as X terminal. While NC purists may consider this to be a suboptimal use of NC hardware, the NCs work well as terminals, and are considerably cheaper than purpose-built terminal hardware.

NC standards and drafts

Reference Profile

The initial Network Computing standard, the Network Computer Reference Profile, required that all 'NC' appliances supported HTML, Java, [], JPEG, and other key standards.

NC extensions

This list may be incomplete.

NC implementations

Acorn Network Computer

The Acorn Network Computer was Oracle's initial reference implementation of the NC. Its development was subcontracted to British company Acorn Computers.

Applied Data Systems Single Board Computers

Applied Data Systems embedded single board computers are pre-loaded with Windows CE+CF or Linux 2.6, Full Debian. Special OS Builds are available to OEMs. The Bitsy series has been used for years in a variety of Network Computers.

NetProducts NetStation

The first generation NetStation design and the NetStation trademark was licensed to NChannel, which provided the consumer equipment and Internet service (with associated infrastructure) for the UK market. After a few months, NChannel split into two entities: NetChannel (which provided the Internet service) and NetProducts which provided the consumer hardware.

NetProducts started working with Acorn to develop a next-generation product, NetStation II and started developing an email-only set-top-box (the TVemail). NetProducts went into voluntary liquidation in 1998 before either project was completed.

Sun Microsystems JavaStation

Sun Microsystems developed the JavaStation, a JavaOS-based NC based on SPARC hardware, initially similar to Sun's range of Unix workstations.

IBM Network Station

IBM also created a number of NC appliances. As with the later reference design, the Network Station used a NetBSD-based NCOS booted over a LAN from an AS/400 or IBM PC server. The Network Station supported local execution of basic applications, such as a web browser and console. In addition, X capability was also implemented to allow both locally and remotely run applications to be used on the same machine. In practice, the lack of real applications meant that this was little more than a hardware X terminal.

The IBM Network Station was originally based on the PowerPC architecture, but the final few models used Intel Pentium processors.

See also


External links

Search another word or see network-computeron Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature