Surf's Up

A Closer Look

By now, you've probably heard all the hype about the Net PC--maybe you've even seen one. In fact, Hewlett Packard, Compaq and several other vendors should have released their versions of the Net PC by the time you read this.

There are a few key differences between Net PCs and traditional PCs: Net PCs lack expansion slots or drives for CD-ROMs and floppy disks, and their cases are sealed so they can't be tampered with (although there are some exceptions). They're also designed to connect to a network and be managed remotely by a systems administrator.

But while these and other features were intended to make Net PCs cheaper, smaller and easier to manage than traditional desktop machines, industry insiders are now pointing out that this isn't necessarily the case--leading some to question the real difference between the two. "Net PCs have all the major characteristics of the PC, like memory and hard drives, so they're actually not much cheaper," says Roger Kay, senior research analyst with International Data Corp., an information technology research firm in Framingham, Massachusetts. What's more, Kay says many models aren't smaller nor do they have any additional features that make them easier to manage.

With the benefits still unclear, particularly when it comes to small business, most industry analysts are recommending a wait-and-see approach.

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This article was originally published in the November 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Surf's Up.

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