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IBM fleshes out Eon strategy

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David McAughtry, who we met maybe 12 years ago when he was an OS/2 guru, took time out this morning to put flesh on the future products that the personal system group will roll out this quarter, and to explain IBM's thinking on its Edge of the Network (Eon) strategy. McAughtry is now VP of marketing for Eon, and is now responsible for worldwide strategy on the products. He lives in The Smoke (London) and told us he commutes to his office in Somers, New York. He said on Eon: "This is more than just a marketing veneer over a set of products. You will see a series of announcements related to branding, solutions and alliance partners through to 2001. The market will be widely different in the coming two years than at any time since the PC arrived." Accordin McAughtry, the idea of Big Blue's Eon initiative is that all devices, ranging from so-called wearable PCs, through to thin clients and personalised servers, will sit on the edge of a network, and be supplied with information from some centralised role. Although the PC and,for example the ThinkPad notebook, will still have a place, many x86 devices will not take the role they occupied in the past. "This is not the end of the PC business, it's the next stage," he said. "You will see classic devices in the Eon view too, but the message here is simplification and choice. We're just starting the R&D to make things even simpler. You'll see us deploy broadband, DSL (digital subscriber line) and Bluetooth too." He said that IBM will join Dell, and of course Intel, to provide server farms, perhaps as a managing contractor, for either consumers or businesses, but products, such as thin Netfinity which it will introduce next week, will also be sold to ISPs and ASPs, and Big Blue will not compete with its customers. McAughtry brought in several models in the Eon range, including the information alliance we spotted at German fair CeBIT a little while back. This DSL-based information appliance box will be either bundled with some services or may even be free. IBM struck a deal involving AT&T and Lycos last week, and McAughtrey said that there will be four or five similar deals, mostly US based, in the next few weeks. He said that IBM is talking to both grocers and to financial services who will offer the products to consumers. "You'll be able to go to other places (Web sites) but eventually you will return to [the firm's] home page." In June, Big Blue will also introduce its low cost desktop computer, formerly codenamed Vegas, he said. This is a groovy looking little number which he said will cost less than £1,500 at launch, use a Pentium III or AMD chip, come with a 15-inch LCD screen (optional 17-inch), have two mini-PCI slots, weighs around 13lbs and support up to 512Mb of memory and have a 20GHz hard drive. It has a very small footprint, probably about the size of Lou Gerstner's boots. USB ports -- no 1394 Firewire connection. Big Blue is also readying three network stations (NCs) which now shelter under the personal system group umbrella. There will be one for Linux, a so-called "zero footprint" model, and one aimed specifically at Windows 2000 users. Its All-in-One desktop (code: Luxor), has a somewhat similar look and feel to the low cost unit, but has an optional radial arm that lets you swing the screen out of the way, and has a footprint of 16 x 16 x 10, seven USB ports and two PCI slots. The Netfinity slim server will fit in a rack that stacks up to 40 of the babies, and will cost £2,500. It launches next week. ®

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