IGEL Technology said it became No. 3 according to IDC market analysis in the third quarter of 2008. Hewlett-Packard leads the market in some surveys, after its acquisition of Neoware, another thin-client vendor, in late 2007. Wyse, the former market leader, is No. 2.
IGEL is less well known but is offering some redefinition of what a thin client can do and appears closely attuned to virtualization developments.
It offers five thin-client models, numbered UD2, UD3, UD5, UD7, and UD9. It puts three levels of software packages on each. As the numbers rise, the speed of the processor and amount of graphics coprocessing increases.
"Thin clients have traditionally been dedicated to a few specific protocols, which were difficult to choose and forced customers to buy unnecessary hardware or software," said Stephen Yeo, strategic marketing director for IGEL, in announcing IGEL's Universal Desktop Jan. 28.
IGEL organizes a Universal Desktop around one of three operating systems -- Windows Embedded CE 6, Windows Embedded Standard 2009, or IGEL's own distribution of Linux -- then enables that desktop to run on any of its five thin clients. In addition, each operating system's Universal Desktop can be varied from entry-level, standard, or advanced packages to allow a thin client to access different applications and levels of digital services on a host.
An entry-level package can run Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol and Citrix Systems' speeded-up ICA protocol and do basic printing with any of the three operating systems. The standard package adds optimized printing, support for virtualization from Citrix or VMware, PDF document viewing, terminal emulation, VPN remote access, and Web access for the three operating systems.
The advanced package adds an SAP graphical user interface with any of the three operating systems; under Windows Embedded Standard 2009, it offers USB redirection, meaning feeds from a USB device can be run directly on the thin client's processor; and under IGEL Linux, the advanced package allows voice over IP.
Thin clients typically have struggled to deliver a PC-like experience when they were bound by network protocols such as RDP to a central server. Video, 3-D graphics, and multimedia have typically suffered performance hits that made the thin-client experience less than satisfying for many end users.
Yeo said the thin client of the future, such as IGEL's Universal Desktop packages, will be "the Swiss Army knife of thin clients. It provides access to any server-based application or virtual desktop with the same user experience as a fat PC."
In a study posted on the IGEL Web site, the Butler Group concluded that thin-client use can cut electricity demands by 70% over use of a standard PC desktop or laptop.
IGEL's U.S. offices are located in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.