Plummeting PC sales and uncertainty following the proposed HP/Compaq merger have provided a leg-up for thin-client sales, according to industry pundits.

Thin clients are stripped-down PCs in minimal boxes that are generally a lot cheaper but less upgradable than the average desktop. Paul Wilcox, sales manager of thin-client company Wyse Technology, claims to have recorded a fourfold increase in sales this year.

Wilcox attributes much of this growth to customers looking at alternatives to purchasing PCs that have come to the end of their lease.

"A lot of companies have PCs coming off lease after buying them for Y2K, and they are saying, 'Didn't we just get these things?' Y2K is still fresh in their minds so they're thinking of thin client," Wilcox said.

He said that a lot of customers have been "spooked" by the HP/Compaq merger and are concerned about the future direction of certain PC lines.

IDC computing hardware analyst Logan Ringland is currently finalising statistics on the thin-client market. His preliminary findings indicate the market is definitely growing, but he warned the industry should not get carried away.

While Ringland was undecided on whether enterprise consumers were turning away from PCs in favour of thin-client models, he did say there was a strong demand for a managed computing environment, which thin client offers.

Latest IDC figures are that PC sales could be down at the end of 2001 by as much as 25 percent.

IDC is a member of the IDG group of companies, as is PC Advisor.