eComStation: Interview with Bob St. John
By: Walter Metcalf
I originally couldn't wait for the end of
November for IBM's Convenience Pak to be released so I get all the goodies such as the Logical
Volume Manager and updated Boot Manager.1
Then Bob St. John, Director of New Business Development at Serenity Systems, and I began an extended
email conversation on a different matter, leading me to investigate his
product--eComStation--more closely. To make a long story short, I decided eCS was well worth
doing an in-depth review on this site, so I could find out what eComStation was really made of
and pass this on to the readers of this site.
Recently, however, I have noticed several
postings in newsgroups and the like indicating that people are confused about eComStation, what
it contains, its pricing, etc., and so are opting for the Convenience Paks. Certainly people
have the right to order whichever product (or neither or both) they wish. I am concerned,
however when they are making their decision based on confusion and incomplete information.
Therefore I decided it would be a good idea to interview Bob about the some of these
matters--getting it from the horse's mouth so to speak. As well, such as an interview could
serve as a kick-off for an extended review of eComStation. The following is that interview.
The following interview is comprised of two parts: an email exchange of questions and answers,
followed a live chat session.
[Focus on OS/2]According to the eComStation forum on eGroups, eCS
was "born" on 29 April 2000. When was it "conceived"? That is, when did the idea first come
into your heads?
[Bob St. John]It was conceived when IBM made the announcement that
there would not be an "Aurora" client. We went to IBM the same time and a similar approach to
Stardock. Stardock seemed to have more support and be further down the process than we were ...
so we simply supported their proposal.
[Bob St. John]However, when Stardock's plan as put on the shelf, I
made the statement in OS/2 eZine that we had not terminated our interest and we would be
continuing with our request. That would have been June of 1999. In October of 1999 (I think),
John Soyring was announced as the new head of what became e-business Operating Systems
Solutions. I contacted Mr. Soyring and a series of actions led to a meeting in Austin in March,
2000. At that meeting we got an agreement in principal and we moved on from there.
[Focus on OS/2]How long have you been working on it so far?
[Bob St. John]We've been working on it, from a Managed Client
standpoint, since Warp Server for e-biz came out. The essentials of what we wanted were already
in the server.
[Focus on OS/2]How many man-hours?
[Bob St. John]You know ... I don't know, specifically. Most of the
development hours take place in California and I'm in Texas. I would have to defer to Kim ..
but I'm not even sure that's a question I'd like to see answered.
[Focus on OS/2]What gave you and Kim the idea to develop or release
[Bob St. John]We wanted to take advantage of the enhancements which
were in WSeb, including the improved memory management and thread support. We also wanted SMP
and JFS. We simply wanted a client which had features not available in Merlin.
[Focus on OS/2]What does the acronym mean?
[Bob St. John]electronic Commerce Station. We think our client is the
premiere Tier 1 client for e.commerce. Keeping in mind that we still see network centric model
as "fat clients" participate more and more with the prevailing networks, primarily the
Internet. Now, with DSL and cable becoming popular .. a lot of PCs are now clients in a Wide
Area Network called the Internet.
[Focus on OS/2]What have been your major challenges in getting the
product this far?
[Bob St. John]You know, there is no shortage of things to do ... just
a shortage of resource, hours in a day. But OS/2 is a wonderful platform. Reliable, well
behaved. It keeps giving you ideas to push things forward a little more. A principal challenge
is just getting it ready for users so we can assess the real interest levels. So we can start
campaigns to expand the user base. That will help us prioritize and determine how much to
invest and where.
[Focus on OS/2]Are you reasonably satisfied with your progress so
[Bob St. John]I'm proud of the progress ... I don't think folks in
our industry are ever satisfied.
[Focus on OS/2]A lot of people in the newsgroups, etc. seem to be
confused as to the contents of the eComStation package. Would you list the contents of the
basic (non-upgrade) edition of eComStation?
[Bob St. John]Well, eComStation is a Managed Client, a term that many
PC users are not familiar or comfortable with right now. That's OK ... over time, this the
function and advantages of Managed Client Computing for all users will be more clear.
[Bob St. John]Next, users purchase the GA version of eCS. We are
looking toward the end of the year for the release. In the meantime, users receive a Preview of
the software and we are looking for their input on the Preview. Users have already helped us
establish several development projects for the GA version.
[Bob St. John]Users of the Preview will notice a modified
installation program and WiseMachine. WiseMachine is the first step towards Managed Client
computing for these users. One on system, WiseMachine uses some of the same technology and
functions which are normally spread across clients, on one system.
[Bob St. John]Anyway, people receiving the Preview get two office
suites, Star Office 5.1 for OS/2 and Lotus Smart Suite 1.5. They also get IBM's Desktop on
Call, excellent remote control software. KellerGroups FaxWorks Lite, Adobe Acrobat Reader,
Voice Type, HyperAccess Lite from the Bonus Pack, Hank Kelder's WPTools, WiseTalker Database
Server Utilities, and various utilities and drivers.
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