eComStation: Interview with Bob St. John

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[Focus on OS/2] I'm not a marketting type, and I daresay many of my readers aren't either.

[Bob St. John] ah well, I'm all about marketing.

[Focus on OS/2] Maybe we need an interpreter. :-)

[Bob St.John] but WiseMachine is not about marketing's about function

[Bob St. John] WiseMachine is the first real departure in how people use their PCs in years.

[Bob St. John] It's just being driven by the Inet

[Focus on OS/2] Could you explain what you mean by "premier Tier 1 client" and "Tier 0"

[Bob St. John] I'm continually impressed by how pervasive the Inet has become. I leave email for both my kids' teachers .. though one reads it pretty often .. the other only at the end of the day.

[Bob St. John] Tier 0 are the specialized appliances ... hand helds, cell phones, maybe even things like gas pumps.

[Bob St. John] Tier 1 is more like the traditional PC

[Bob St. John] Tier 2 is the server and then you start to get into the back end servers, the big AIX or 390 systems as back end servers

[Focus on OS/2] Do you agree with the recent statement that the era of the PC is over?

[Bob St. John] No. But I think the PC is about to undergo a significant evolution, a transition.

[Focus on OS/2] Into what?

[Bob St. John] Most changes to PCs have only involved speeds and feeds, bigger-faster-better .. but the operations were essentially the same.

[Bob St. John] Now we are going to differences in where information is stored and how it is used

[Bob St. John] One big difference is where applications are and how they are used.

[Bob St. John] A challenge with PCs, fat clients, is the updating of software .. different versions on different machines.

[Bob St. John] And many PC users resent upgrades .. "this is working fine, I don't need the new features. I'll stand pat on this, thanks."

[Bob St. John] So, you wind up with a support nightmare

[Bob St. John] Now move the application to the server. Maintain one copy. When ever the users require it .. it is pushed down to them, in the current form.

[Bob St. John] Life can be much simpler that way .. and in this case, simple means much less expensive.

[Focus on OS/2] From my standpoint as a power user, the PC's biggest limitation is its buss: both the speed and number of devices (IRQ's) it can support.

[Bob St. John] The nature of the Internet is collaboration, communication, information sharing ... these are not things the "PC" as a stand alone device does very well.

[Bob St. John] Power users will probably feel the effect of this differently. The biggest effect will be on the casual users.

[Bob St.John] Nonetheless, the technology will be part of the power users domain, too.

[Focus on OS/2] How do you see eCS fitting into this transition?

[Bob St. John] eCS is designed for transition. We understood that from the beginning. That's why there is so much emphasis on software deployment and server management.

[Bob St. John] eCS brings to the table the same things a PC does ...

[Bob St. John] But it also brings a design and a vision for managing change.

[Bob St. John] traditional PCs have trouble with "change".

[Bob St. John] What I'm saying is .. I look at the computing environment today .. and I see a very clear picture of "yesterday" .. and "tomorrow" .. today seems to a mix of both of these models, paradigms, whatever.

[Focus on OS/2] OK, I recently noticed on one of your channel partner's web sites (, a reference to the development of an eCS "family" of products, including an eCS Server. Could you elaborate on that?

[Bob St. John] eCS has one foot firmly planted in both .. but the weight is on the forward foot. eCS is ready to "step off" or "step up"

[Bob St. John] In its minimum configuration, eCS server is Warp Server for e-business and WiseServer. And I want to add Domino Application server to it because that brings Web publishing, email, directories, calendaring, team rooms .. real collaboration for a group of users.

[Bob St. John] Over time, we want WiseServer to run on Linux and there will be a eComServer for Linux .. handling booting of clients and some other function. Managed Client networks allows folks to bring in an opportunity to develop an economy of scale with servers, specialized servers.

[Bob St. John] All this gets back to roles. More activities which used to take place on the client can be moved to servers and now you leverage the "wire". That's why I use the term "network centric computing" as opposed to "network computing".

[Bob St. John] eComStation and eComServer are intended to support multiple platforms. Windows would only be supported as a client, and that is a concession to some Windows applications and the user perception that they "need" Windows. However, the lack of stability, responsiveness, and expense make it a poor choice for the role of server.

[Focus on OS/2] Were these additional eCS products in your minds from the beginning, or are they the result of the response to eCS?

[Bob St. John] The additional eCS products were always there. eCS is simply the replacement for our OS/2 client in this vision. What's new is the decision to support users with intermittent connections. That's the Mobile Managed Client and WiseMachine. That was generated by the response to eCS. But it's clearly the right thing to do. It's pretty much impossible to sell to businesses ... without a response to the lap top users.

[Bob St. John] Btw, I had a call yesterday from someone who wants to offer computing services to the tenants in their building. This is very consistent with what we are talking about. All the technology is the same .. it's how it is paid for that is different.

[Bob St. John] Put a server or two into the building. Bring in the T1 Inet connection .. put the ethernet connection into the offices.

[Bob St. John] Now the tenant comes in and selects a desktop ... and the building services becomes IT

[Bob St. John] The driver for this is ... the value of the building. These people want to do because it increases the value of the building in the accounting formula. But it's the Internet driven technologies that drive the acceptance and make it possible.

[Focus on OS/2] OK, That's about everything I wanted to cover. If there's anything you wanted to say that I didn't give you a chance to do, now's the time.

[Bob St. John] I think I'm pretty much done

[Bob St. John] I think we need to firm up what we are doing so we can get the GA product out

[Focus on OS/2] Go ahead.

[Bob St. John] Next thing .. start working on a product plan for the enhancements and share that with the users. I want to do that by the end of the year because of the upgrade pricing and upgrade protection product pricing.

[Bob St. John] So ... if you are done ... I'm done. Thanks for the time and attention

[Focus on OS/2] Thank you!

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Walter Metcalf

For Further Reading:

VOICE SpeakUp with Serenity Systems (Topic: eComStation) from 07/03/2000
Bob St. John answers questions by VOICE members and other OS/2 users.

eComStation: an Interview with Bob St. John
OS/2 e-Zine interviews Bob St. John. By Richard Klemmer.

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