HP Thin Client Is Modestly Mobile

Though portable, the new device is targeted to office and home workers rather than to hard-core road warriors.

In January, HP introduced a novel device -- a mobile thin client. While HP is hardly the first company to offer such a machine, the HP Compaq 6720t is HP's first foray into mobile thin clients. What's more, HP is the first mega-vendor in the industry to offer a mobile thin client, which could signal an increase in interest in the technology.

The Product
Resembling a laptop, the 6720t has no hard drive -- and, for those into green computing, no electricity-sucking fan, either -- so no data actually resides on it. Users access applications and data by connecting via a secure virtual private network and save data on a server, virtual PC or blade PC computing platform.

Hewlett-Packard Co.
Jan. 24, 2008
  • HP Compaq 6720t Mobile Thin Client
  • $725 list price
  • Available now

    Key Features:
  • Provides increased security in case of theft, as no data resides on device
  • Designed without a fan or hard drive, so uses less electricity than a laptop
  • Gives IT managers ability to remotely install, manage and update software on multiple clients at once Competition:
  • Wyse Technology X90L and X90Le
  • Tisio 300 Series from ThinPATH Systems Inc.
  • Itona TL line from VXL Instruments
  • SafeBook line from Devon IT Inc.
  • Thin-client offerings from Tadpole Computer, owned by General Dynamics

  • Portability for workers in campus-style office settings
  • Ability for users to log in via wireless network at home
  • Reduced damage from theft or loss
  • That means that a lost or stolen mobile thin-client device poses much less of a risk than a stolen laptop, the latter of which could contain -- and has contained, in a few infamous cases -- critical information stored and accessible in its hard drive. HP touts the 6720t as not only a safer but also an easier-to-manage alternative to a laptop. IT administrators can install, update and manage software remotely and simultaneously on multiple mobile devices.

    While HP officials talk up the mobility of the new thin-client device, it's not designed for the road warrior; in fact, it's essentially useless on an airplane. Instead, the 6720t is aimed at folks jumping from meeting to meeting or workers who like to connect at home.

    "Folks that are working in a wireless campus environment-this is targeted at them," says Tad Bodeman, director of Blade PC and Thin Client Solutions for the HP Personal Systems Group. "They want to have a mobile device because they want to work at their desks, go from conference room to conference room for their meetings. They want to go home, have dinner, log back in and do some more work at night or on the weekend."

    The Competition
    The market for mobile thin clients is actually fairly crowded with a wide variety of offerings, mostly from smaller companies. However, HP's entry into the market is significant because the vendor brings not only credibility to mobile thin clients but also an arsenal of services and a dedicated thin-client infrastructure, according to Gordon Haff, principal IT advisor at Illuminata Inc., a Nashua, N.H.-based analyst firm.

    "This announcement is notable because it isn't just another point device," Haff wrote in a Jan. 25 blog entry on Illuminata's Web site. "Rather, it's a mobile thin client that's not only part of a broad lineup of thin client devices, but is also part of a broad lineup of HP hardware, software and services offerings ... And that's really an important storyline in the rise of thin clients."

    The Final Word
    Haff writes that "businesses are showing an interest in thin clients as a category that far exceeds what we've seen historically," so HP might be jumping on the mobile thin client bandwagon at just the right time. The HP name and reputation, along with HP's thin-client infrastructure and array of services and complementary thin-client products, could be advantages for the company in competing against mostly smaller, lesser-known firms.

    As for the device itself, HP is counting on selling to a user base that doesn't seem especially well-defined but that surely exists; call it the mobile office worker, as opposed to the true road warrior. For companies looking to simplify computing management and guard against the perils of lost or stolen laptops, the 6720t could be worth a look-as long as users can grow accustom to a device that doesn't really work when it's not connected to a corporate network.