Vendor AST has taken a step toward the network computer (NC) market by releasing a local area network product which it says is neither NC nor PC.
Centralan is a central processor with up to 12 slave terminals running off it, providing access to a range of Windows applications. AST said it would naturally appeal to small businesses that were unable to set up a conventional network.
AST marketing director Con Mallon said the product will provide as many solutions as there are problems. 'There is only one P166 processor so there will be fewer admin demands on the system. This is good for people who do not have the IT management skills needed for a standard network and it means there are substantially lower running costs. You could even plug old 286 and 386 machines into it and have them running as P100 workstations, representing a significant saving, compared with upgrading each machine.'
Oracle marketing director Nick Barley said the news from AST is evidence that the NC is forcing PC vendors to diversify. 'A lot of them are having to respond to the challenge of the NC, but they are still missing the point. The whole point of the NC is that it opens up computing to a wider audience by making everything easier to use. It gets away from the problem of users having to learn how to use packages such as Windows 95.'
AST will not be setting up a Centralan accreditation programme. Mallon said: 'It will be in dealers' own interests to educate themselves on the possible uses for this product. You may see AST recruiting more Vars into its channel.'
Centralan supports Windows 3.x at present and AST is planning to roll out 32-bit versions for Windows NT early in 1997. But the company feels that the demand for NT compatibility does not yet exist among small business users.
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