Sun has updated its Sun Ray platform with new workstations and server software that it hopes will give the thin client devices a foothold with branch offices, small businesses and eventually home users.

Version 3.0 of the Sun Ray server software allows the thin client to be used securely over an Internet connection. "Basically, it was a LAN product; now we're saying it's a WAN product," said Mason Uyeda, a product marketing manager with Sun.

Because the Sun Ray can now be used over any broadband Internet connection, it will appeal to a new set of customers, according to Sun: ISPs looking to provide a low-cost client for home users.

Next year, the Sun Ray server will also include support for Lucent's VoIP software, which Sun says will give telcos the opportunity to sell a centrally managed telecommunication and computing device to small business users.

First developed in 1999, the Sun Ray was Sun's entry into a thin client market that largely failed to emerge. Sales have been in the hundreds of thousands, Sun claims, but even top execs admit it has not lived up to expectations. "Has Sun Ray reached the volumes that we desired originally? No, it has not," said John Loiacono, senior VP of Sun's software division.

However, the company is working with customers on some large-scale Sun Ray deployments, Loiacono said, which are expected to be rolled out over the next year. "We believe that this is the year that we're really going to see the Sun Ray emerge as a volume platform," he said.

Outside of Sun, which has deployed approximately 30,000 Sun Rays internally, the largest deployments of the thin client devices to date have involved "thousands" of terminals, Uyeda said.

The new Sun Ray 170 client will have a larger, 17-inch monitor and come with a projector port for use in a conference room. It sells for $1,049. The server software is priced at $99 per client. Both products are available now.