VXL has launched a thin-client computer for under £100, which it is hoping will finally loosen the PC network's inexorable grip on the market.

By offering its new Itona TC23xx series of thin clients at £99, the company believes it can persuade users that the time for thin-client computing has come.

Historically, there have been many attempts to steer enterprises towards thin computing, yet businesses stubbornly persist in constructing networks based around the ubiquitous PC.

The TC23xx series is based on a 1Ghz Via C7 processor and comes with Linux or Windows CE. "A high specced machine like that could convince users," believes VXL's VP of sales, Frank Noon.

Noon argues there's an overwhelming case in favour of thin-client computing. "It's not just the £99 price tag," he said. "There's the fact that thin-client machines are more reliable, with a failure rate of 0.04 percent compared to two percent for PCs.

"There's also the power aspect – a thin-client computer consumes about 11W, while a PC uses up between 100 to 250W, in a 5000 seat enterprise, that alone equates to a cost saving of £50,000 a year," he said. If you factor in the cost of the machine and the software, he added, then the business case for thin clients becomes irresistible.

However, as Noon acknowledges, the problem faced by thin-client vendors such as VXL is not so much a technical one – or even a financial one – but a cultural problem, with managers being loath to give up their machines.

Noon believes the growing interest in virtualisation will be the driver that could transform the thin client market. “There’s obviously a huge interest in virtualisation right now – along with factors such a blade servers, hypervisors and server-based appliances. For these sort of technologies, thin-client is the perfect solution."

He pointed out that globally there were 90 million Citrix software licences, yet only 8 million of them were for thin-client machines “That’s 82 million potential customers," he said.

The other potential market driver is the interest in security. "We’ve had a spate of incidents of laptops being stolen or left in taxis and confidential information is lost. That problem just vanishes with thin client machines." He said that at a recent conference, nearly all the sales enquiries were for the thin-client laptop that the company offers.

Noon explained that the company had be able to release such a powerful model as the Itona TC23xx series at such a low price by offering Linux or Windows CE. This meant the company didn’t have to provide such high RAM.