Back in the '90s, thin-client talk was all the rage. Whether it was Oracle's Larry Ellison or Sun's Scott McNealy, executives from across the IT landscape were heralding network-based "dumb" boxes as the eventual slayers of traditional PCs.
Of course, that hasn't happened. PCs still abound. Yet for a number of reasons today, there is renewed interest in thin-client computing. Customers are desperate to lower the costs associated with owning and managing PCs. Paramount to that, they want to make sure that critical data on their systems remains secure. An event like the recently lost Fidelity laptop could prompt any CIO to consider migrating to thin clients that house no data locally.
Wyse believes a thin-client resurgence is in the making. The company has been in the game for years with its Winterm product line. But recently, the company has overhauled its channel program (it sells 100 percent indirect) and inked significant sales and technology partnerships with AT&T's Business Division and VMWare, the virtualization maven.
Tarkan Maner runs channel and business development for Wyse. After stints working at IBM and CA, he says he joined the Wyse team because of what he describes as a "surge" in the thin-client market, which he estimates at $600 million today.
"Unlike other IT markets, the thin client market place is redefining itself," Maner says. "Customers are saying this makes a lot of sense: Getting the PC experience with 70 percent cost savings with information secure and managed."
Wyse's recent deals with AT&T and VMWare bolster Maner's optimism. The AT&T partnership, signed this month, will see the two companies trying to tap into AT&T's top 500 voice/data and IT services clients. Coupled with the AT&T services, Wyse will provide thin-client hardware and software to these customers, according to Maner.
The VMWare partnership is somewhat intriguing. While server virtualization is one of the hot technology trends today, Maner contends the next big wave is going to be desktop virtualization. Wyse and VMWare believe customers will be just as interested in desktop consolidation as they are in reducing the number of servers they own, and the companies are embarking on a joint R&D, marketing and sales relationship to push desktop virtualization.
"The question is how can you consolidate 1,000s of desktops and replace with a thin client?" Maner explains. "We want to deliver virtualized desktops to customers who don't want all these PCs anymore."
Maner believes desktop virtualization will loom large as customers make upgrade decisions in anticipation of Microsoft's Vista and Longhorn operating systems.
"There are some decisions to be made around going with thin clients," he says, "and we think that desktop virtualization will have a booming affect."
In addition to its strategic partners -- including Citrix and Microsoft for their terminal services protocol technologies, and folks like EDS and Accenture for customization services -- Wyse counts 5,000 solution-provider partners in its program. About 2,000 of those are active, according to Maner.
The company recently revamped its partner program after soliciting input from its channel. Among the highlights, Wyse now rewards customers for influencing sales and has initiated a program called Sky's the Limit that is essentially a fund partners can draw on to bankroll "a la carte" activities like field-alignment events. Wyse is also making evaluation and demo units available at discounts and has implemented a SPIF program that lets their partners decide how to use the incentive money, whether it's for an individual salesperson or some other use.