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Vol 3 No.6 July 1999

Traditionally a low-key player in the desktop arena, South African manufacturer Uniterm is set to broaden its distribution channel to capture a slice of the booming thin-client terminal market.

The company is no newcomer, having manufactured South Africa's first UNIX data terminal back in 1991, distributed by the then Bryant Computer Brokers.

This product was followed by the country's first handheld radio data system the Ierax, currently employed in heavy industrial environments where data capture is imperative, but not always easy.

Uniterm has successfully developed other products, all pertaining to mission-critical environments, in an advanced manufacturing facility that uses the latest in robotic equipment.

One of these, staying with the company's core business, is the Ethernet TCP/IP network terminal, the easitext, which plugs straight into the network, providing cost-effective workstation for data processing functions. Interest in this product has been shown from companies in Europe and the US.

In 1997 Uniterm began eyeing the thin-client concept of Windows-based terminals. During the course of 1998 Uniterm identified, evaluated and aligned themselves with QNX software systems to develop the easinet, a realtime thin-client device, with full Web browser functionality, supporting the ICA protocol.

Support for QNX has been good, with companies such as IBM, Philips, HP and Motorola aligning themselves with the operating system. In addition, Cisco Systems has chosen QNX Software Systems as its preferred RTOS vendor.

The window of opportunity this development has opened for Uniterm extends to the emerging pervasive computing market, point-of-sale environment, handheld devices, PDAs, touchscreen kiosks and many other applications.

"We would like to see Uniterm staying in the forefront of cutting edge technology and challenge to be the number one digital electronics company in Africa," says Uniterm Manufacturing's Peter O'Donoghue.

Historically, Uniterm has used Bryant Technology as its distribution partner. "However, with Bryant Technology repositioning itself in the marketplace and moving away from distribution, Uniterm may have to consider other channel options," says O'Donoghue.

"Ideally Uniterm would like to encourage a situation whereby as manufacturers we have close contact with the end user via the channel," he adds.

'We have an advantage in that we are South Africa's top terminal manufacturer and thin-client innovator, and have the facility and capability to fine tune products to meet the end user's exact requirements and needs.

"Developing wholesome relationships with customers will allow us to get closer to building products to meet specific applications," he concludes.