Why they're a thin client leader today: From a market-share standpoint, theyre not. However, this four-year-old startup is one of the most innovative zero client vendors. The Pano Device is a small (3.5 x 3.5 x 2) black or silver cube that connects to an organizations virtual infrastructure and supplies connections for keyboards, mice, displays and other USB peripherals.
Pano Device has no CPU, internal memory, embedded OS, etc. This is a true all-hardware zero client. Operating systems, firmware, drivers and applications are stored centrally in the data center.
The complete system includes server-side connection broker software, a virtual desktop management appliance and a client connection service for peripherals. Currently, Pano Logic supports VMware virtualized desktop environments, with Microsoft and Citrix slated for later this year or early next.
Why they could be on top in years to come: In February 2010, the company secured $20 million in Series C financing from Mayfield Fund, bringing the total raised to $44 million. Foundation Capital and Goldman Sachs are also investors.
While a stack of VC money doesnt guarantee success, fundraising at this level in these economic times certainly looks good. Panos zero client system is sleek and affordable and should pose a significant challenge to others on this list.
In early March 2010, Pano Logic inked a deal with Fujitsu, under which Fujitsu will integrate Pano Logics zero client technology into a new Fujitsu desktop computing solution.
Customers: University of Maryland, Westerly Public Schools (Rhode Island), Boulevard Brewing, Baker Hill (an Experian company) and City of Walnut Creek, California.
Why they're a thin client today: This German company (Igel is German for hedgehog) gets more play overseas than in the U.S., but it should challenge in the North American market in the years to come. According to IDC, IGEL is the worlds leading Linux thin client vendor, and the number three vendor overall in terms of revenue.
IGEL recently released its Universal Desktop product line, a family of thin clients that maintain a single image across the entire product line. Universal Desktop allows users to mix and match various hardware models with various OSes (currently Linux, Windows Embedded and Windows CE), while also allowing users to pick and choose which client protocols they want enabled.
The benefit of this approach is that it makes it easier to find solutions that meet particular end user needs, while also making it far easier to manage and update images.
Why they could be on top in years to come: IGEL has a strong presence in the EU, and products like the Universal Desktop and its $40 thumb-drive-based Universal Desktop Converter, which turns legacy PCs into remotely managed thin clients, offer a unique spin on the thin-client model.
Customers: Miamis Biltmore Hotel, Bridgewater College (UK), Privatbank (Switzerland), Munich Schwabing Hospital, Piper Aircraft and General Motors.
I may also be asked why Dell, Sun and even Apple arent on the list. Dell should be mentioned here, since it entered the thin client market in late 2008, but so far its traction is limited. Moreover, Dells struggles in the traditional PC market are a red flag.
Sun, on the other hand, bears watching. Sun introduced its Sun Ray stateless thin client solution clear back in 1999, and this was actually Suns second commercial attempt at thin clients. This is a classic case of getting to a market too early, way too early. According to IDC and other research firms, Sun lags well behind HP and Wyse in market share. However, Suns acquisition by Oracle gives it deeper pockets, and Oracle seems intent on being a serious VDI contender.
Finally, while Apple has never claimed to be a thin client vendor, the iPad could well be the pioneering thin client for consumers. Sure, theres more onboard horsepower than youd normally associate with a thin client, but perhaps the iPad points the way to a computing category thats not quite thin, not that fat, way too expensive, but popular nonetheless.