eComStation: Interview with Bob St. John

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[Focus on OS/2]You can also buy an upgrade edition of eCS, right?

[Bob St. John]We plan to sell an upgrade from Warp 4 until the end of January.

[Focus on OS/2]What is required to be eligible for the upgrade edition?

[Bob St. John]You must have a valid Warp 4 license.

[Focus on OS/2]What does the standard eComStation package (upgrade) currently cost?

[Bob St. John]It's about $140US ... but it's better to check pricing on the web sites of the resellers.

[Focus on OS/2]In your opinion, Bob, what are the advantages of buying eComStation over subscribing to IBM's Convenience Pak, and what are the advantages (if there are any) of subscribing to the Convenience Pak over buying eComStation?

[Bob St. John]There is no real advantage to subscribing to SWC ... that's not an accident. Our initial positioning was designed to make SWC and eCS as wash from a price standpoint .. and we're close there. eCS upgrade protection includes SWC .. and the office suites, and the managed client approach.

[Bob St. John]The fact is, we are much more interested in enhancing our product, which is based on IBM OS/2 .. than IBM is in enhancing OS/2, itself. No mystery there. And anything IBM puts into OS/2 or SWC .. becomes part of eCS.

[Focus on OS/2]Do you see eCS appealing to a particular group, or type, of OS/2 user.

[Bob St. John]Because OS/2 is so easy to customize and set up, I think it's appropriate for every user group. It's a matter of how it is delivered to them. Customized and managed for casual users ... and we already know about the appeal to power users.

[Bob St. John]I was talking with a manager today who said is casual users prefer OS/2 because it just runs. They don't have to solve problems or deal with crashes ... it just runs. So, the appeal can be structured to any group .. and that's the way we (Serenity Systems) should approach it.

[Focus on OS/2]Do you think eCS is going to extend OS/2 Warp client's useful life, and if so could you estimate by how much?

[Bob St. John]This is soooooo hard because it requires looking down the road for 18 months, 36 months, ... four years, five years, six years. Warp's useful life can certainly be extended that far. eComStation and participate in that, but keep in mind that we consider eComStation to be a multi-platform client workstation. One capable of helping users work through transitions.

[Bob St. John]I use the word transition and not migration, which I consider linear .. from this to that. Transition is much more complicated .. and more flexible. To be able to deal with transitions, users have to have technology which supports yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That's the eCS model. OS/2 enables a lot of that. But it may not be reasonable to expect the users to limit themselves to one OS.

[Bob St. John]The future environment may include selecting a desktop, or an application, and the underlying OS just travels down to the user, the requester, as the 'embedded platform'. We can do that today so it stands to reason that the ability to that in the future would be even more feasible.

[Focus on OS/2]Without violating any confidentiality agreements, could you briefly explain the type of working relationship you have with IBM, and what it means to eCS users?

[Bob St. John]IBM is a product supplier to us. Of course, they are much more .. they are members of our computing community, collaborators and partners. But when I say "a supplier", I think it's reasonable for a supplier to play all those roles. I would say our relationship has evolved and continues to evolve. We try to help each other because we believe our opportunities are common to each other. So, we try to work through issues over time.

[Bob St. John]IBM has provided a great deal more than we expected when we got into this project. OTOH, it's fair to say that we now want much more than we wanted when we got into this project. Yes, I'm grinning.

[Focus on OS/2]Has IBM been generally supportive, or has it been pretty tough working with them?

[Bob St. John]I would say that they are very supportive. Anyone dealing with IBM, especially in our "space" appreciates that IBM has decisions to carry out, to execute, which can be restrictive. Even so, we've been able to maintain a consistency of vision and strategy which as enabled us to do very well.

[Focus on OS/2]What is your anticipated release date for the first "gold" version of eCS?

[Bob St. John]We are looking at the end of the year. But we are also aware that we need to be flexible. We are getting meaningful feedback from the preview program which we want to incorporate into the GA (Generally Available) product. Having said that ... end of the year is a goal. If it takes longer to get it right, we'll take a little longer.

[Focus on OS/2]What are your biggest challenges in getting out the first public version?

[Bob St. John]Murphy's Law .. nothing new. Randell Flint of Sundial and I were talking, he said, "You're three months late .. that's on time in our business." He was speaking with irony ... not simply joking. Sometimes getting 95% of it done is the easy part and the last 5% is the killer. Nailing down that 5% .. finding out why it worked once and not a second time, why it worked on this P300 but not that (identical) P300 ... those are the challenges.

[Focus on OS/2]What are your plans for publicizing the release?

[Bob St. John]We have excellent distributors and resellers and we are looking at developing a few more. But I think we have seen how easy it is to get squashed by the industry media if you don't have it together when you trot out into the middle of the ring. So ... our first priority is getting it right. Then you can expect us to do some heavy promotion.

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