Q&A (2): IBM's McAughtry on a break from Wintel

continues from previous storyIBM is unusual in that it doesn't seem to have placed a bet as to the future of networked computing.

It's not NC versus PC versus Net PC for us. We make all of them. We're not saying: here are three choices, take your pick. We're saying: here are three directions depending on your environment. For instance, an NC should not have a Pentium chip. It's not to say that the chip is bad but it has to cost $10. Look at the USR Pilot. [shows a flowcharting program] This is a 13Kb piece of code and it's free. New specialist devices are not running Windows and not using Pentiums. That's changing the map. The key thing is that the consumer space is not Wintel. That scalability is not going down or up. It doesn't need to be the same architecture anymore.

You sound happy that hegemony is being broken up...

The PC is wonderful. They're going to grow, not go away, but there was this view that the PC was going to be everything. There is an alternative approach that is more to do with servers. That's why Compaq bought Tandem... because there are things that you can't do with NT PCs. End-user devices aren't 'one size fits all'. The Net PC is the first time you've seen a corporate PC that is completely different to a home PC. The NC is an optimised intranet workstation.

Gates says that just means the budget goes on servers...

On a LAN, just me downloading Office brings it to its knees. Then you download the database and that brings the network to its knees. What happens with the NC is low-level traffic. All you're sending is positions.

Will NCs cannibalise PC sales?

People are trying to position it as antagonistic to the PC. There's no evidence it will take away from the PC market. The type of customer who likes the NC is the sort who didn't go for client-server. We see NCs selling in the hundreds of thousands very quickly and millions within a couple of years.

What do you think of your old rival Microsoft's positioning in the market?

I think Microsoft is playing all elements of the market and waiting to see what comes up. I personally don't like the positioning of Microsoft as an ogre. This isn't a war of any kind. Vendors like IBM and Sun have learned the problems of splitting a platform. That's the Nemesis.