Bull plans to introduce sweeping technology changes as it takes on a massive contract to manage the BBC's television licensing system.
The seven-year contract, thought to be worth around #109 million a year, has been won by a consortium of Bull, the Post Office's Subscription Services Limited (SSL) and marketing group WPP.
As part of the deal, Bull will manage the desktop outsourcing for 800 call centre staff, but Barry Grisdale, CEO of Bull UK and Ireland, said the company may not stick with the traditional PC architecture. "PCs may be an overkill for call centre applications. We're seriously considering going for thin-client architecture. We don't have to go for fully-fledged PC systems - you don't need a version of MS Office running on every desktop."
Grisdale said that changes in back-end technology would allow Bull to offer the BBC a range of Web-enabled payment systems. "There are a couple of scenarios we could provide, both subject to backing from the BBC. First, if people have Web access through their home PC then they could pay for their TV licence via a secure electronic transaction. Why should they have to go to a post office or bank?" He added that Bull could also allow retailers to register the names and addresses of customers buying TVs with the licensing authority directly over the Internet.
The BBC licensing system stores the records of 22 million licensees and currently runs on an IBM - configured mainframe running MVS, CICS and DB2. Bull will update this to a Bull Escala PowerPC AIX Unix server which will be replicated on a remote Bull server for full disaster recovery.
NT Web servers will be used to provide Internet connectivity.
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