Interview: HP's Frank on 'personal workstations'

As Hewlett-Packard takes its first shot at what it calls the 'personal workstation' category, going head-to-head with Compaq, we spoke to Olivier Frank, programmes manager for personal workstations at HP, about who needs this PC/workstation hybrid.PCDN: So what is a personal workstation?

As Hewlett-Packard takes its first shot at what it calls the 'personal workstation' category, going head-to-head with Compaq, we spoke to Olivier Frank, programmes manager for personal workstations at HP, about who needs this PC/workstation hybrid.

PCDN: So what is a personal workstation?

Basically, a personal workstation is a combination of Intel chips and Windows NT, where the traditional workstation would be a combination of RISC chips and Unix.

Lots of people have talked about how Intel's fastest chips combined with the security and power of Windows NT make a killer workstation combination to take on RISC/Unix. Is there still a difference between high-end PCs and workstations?

Absolutely, and in fact this goes beyond the purely technological space. For example, in June we introduced Vectra systems for commercial business. Hewlett-Packard is endorsing PCs and new and old workstation categories very heavily. The important point to remember is that NT is a big reason to grow the commercial market. What we're seeing is that there is an increase in productivity in running 32-bit Office applications - that's commercial. We're also very interested in growing markets like multimedia authoring. But NT also lets people move to more specialised fields like mechanical and electronic design at a lower cost than was previously possible.

When will Pentium Pro/NT systems become mainstream?

There are two different stories. On the commercial scene, the question is when NT becomes mainstream; the second story is how much Unix users, or potential users, go to NT.

In the first scenario, the combination of the low cost of ownership on NT and lower price points on Pentium Pro make a great fit. By the end of this year, or the beginning of the next year, we expect a very big level of adoption.

For the second, next year the downsizers coming from Unix will add NT to their infrastructure and the key then is interoperability. They will mix. A car designer who needs crash testing tools will still use Unix but the visualising will be done on NT.

The growth will come in both camps but we think Pro/NT will become mainstream in 12-20 months.

HP has gone its own way on Pentium Pro, designing boards in-house while others, including IBM and other blue chips, have gone for off-the-peg designs. Would you consider an Intel board for lower-cost products?

Absolutely. We're very serious about considering Intel as an alternative source. We're not doing HP for the sake of doing HP.

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