IBM will start shipping its Network Station 1000 from the 1 December, with the company still bullish about its prospects of succeeding as a platform in the corporate market.
The 1000, which will cost around the 800 pound mark in the UK, comes with 32Mb of memory and uses a Power PC 603 which runsat 200MHz, said David McAughtrey, VP of the NC division at IBM Emea.
Although he refused to say how many NCs had shipped since it was launched in April this year, McAughtrey said that analysts Merrill Lynch had reported that IBM will ship 100,000 of the units by the end of this year.
He said a "big" financial services group would place an order for 4,000 NCs this week, with 2,000 delivered by the end of the year.
The evidence from the marketplace, from end users and PC competitors was that they were all taking the NC seriously, while the Meta Group had reported that the total cost of ownership of an IC was around the 57 per cent mark.
Last week, Eckhard Pfeiffer, CEO of Compaq, told an audience of 200 corporate IT managers in Wembley,England, that savings of 45 per cent were the average when Net PCs were adopted by companies.
McAughtrey said: "Intel's moved its position on NCs, while Compaq has softened its approach." That view was reflected by a Q&A session held by Pfeiffer after his keynote speech at Comdex yesterday, when asked about the NC/Net PC debate.
He said: "There will be a role for NCs, it's hard to predict what way the market will go. They [the NC vendors] are talking to a lot of our existing customers." Rumours have circulated in the industry throughout this year that Compaq had an alternative NC strategy in place.
McAughtrey said that initial reaction from its corporate customers was positive both towards the NC and to eSuite, formerly codenamed Cona.
The word processor module, for example, used HTML, which is really ASCII text, meaning a high level of portability between PCs and every other platform.
Performance, too, was not an issue with the NC, claimed McAughtrey. "We now know what network traffic is using NCs and Java - it's pretty low and in fact NCs use far less bandwidth than PCs on local area network," he said.
However, NCs were by and large still restricted to enterprises because of installation skills needed at the server level, he admitted. Channel partners of IBM would be carrying out that work but he did not rule out future developments where small and medium sized enterprises would use NCs.
He claimed that 15,000 users could run their eSuite applications off a single AS/400 server or an SP II, with only small packets of information moving around the Lan and across the application server to wide area networks.
Microsoft, he claimed, was unable to offer any kind of model similar to eSuite and to the NC. "Until Microsoft can replace the revenue stream from a 150Mbyte Office application with a little VB bag hanging off the end of it, they cannot have a proper componentised model," he added.
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