Microsoft and Intel last week announced the specification for a network computer one day before Sun launched its Java Station.
Sun claims the running cost of its Java Stations will be $2,500 a year - about a quarter of the estimated annual costs of running a PC on a corporate network.
IBM also has elaborate plans for a network computer or 'universal client', which will ship early next year.
Microsoft and Intel will lead an open design review to finalise the specification for their Net PC. The computer will have a minimum of a 100MHz Pentium processor, 16Mb of memory, support for an internal hard disk for caching, an external keyboard connection, external pointing device connection, and VGA-compatible display adaptor with a minimum resolution of 640 x 480.
It must also support one of the following: Ethernet, Token Ring, a 28.8Kbps modem, ISDN T1 or ATM.
The announcement comes less than a year after Microsoft CEO Bill Gates snubbed Oracle chief Larry Ellison's vision of a low-cost network computer.
Microsoft and Intel will jointly develop the Net PC. Leading PC manufacturers - including Compaq, Dell, Digital, Gateway 2000, Hewlett Packard, Packard Bell and Texas Instruments - have announced plans to manufacture Net PCs, which are expected to be shipped next year.
Microsoft will provide a new version of Windows for the Net PC, with built-in 'zero administration' features - an idea borrowed from Sun, which has been pushing the idea of a zero administration client for some months.
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