Editorial: In the Land of the Blind …

This past October, Unisys chose the inside of a former New York City bank, with its marble columns and brass bars, granite gargoyles and vaulted ceilings – the epitome of bricks and mortar business – to introduce its clicks and mortar offerings. Amid its "Theatre of Transformation," which consisted of rain forest chirpings and some nouveau dinging and binging, Unisys threw its hat into the e-ring.

With the formula x (CV) = (s2 + p2) + P, Unisys launched its "e-@ction" portfolio. Like any good equation, the objective is to solve for "x." The known variables of e-@ction consist of (CV) which equals Customer Value, which comes from s2 – solutions/service, plus p2 – platform/plumbing, all added to People, with a capital P.

Cascading across the walls in living color were words such as transact, action, interact, speed and transform. Good words. But, IBM, Sun and HP each have their own words. In fact, HP’s word of the week – Invent – can be found on its new logo.

With all of these other words floating around, some may say that Unisys is too late to the e-table with its e-nitiatives. What with IBM’s e-Business and HP’s E-Services, no one will remember who came e-second, let alone e-third. However, Larry Wienbach insists that there is a "second wave coming," a wave upon which Unisys rides the crest. This is either some nasty spin doctoring or the truth.

According to Weinbach, the electronic business of tomorrow will need to do more than "simply [put] an ‘e’ on its building." And it’s more than having a Web site with ads. Tomorrow’s, and I mean tomorrow, not next year’s, successful corporations will be those that combine the ".coms" with the bricks and mortars into a hybrid company.

Barbara Babcock, VP and Virtual GM of Electronic Business at Unisys, told the crowd of journalists, analysts, Unisys staff and customers, that by 2002 over half – 56 percent – of Internet use will be outside of the U.S., meaning the shift from national to international demand is only two short years away. The challenge of the second wave will be the ability to deliver real products and services from behind the screen.

I for one, am happy to see that Unisys seems to understand that offering nebulous "solutions" is no longer enough. After all, who today doesn’t offer a solution? That’s right: "Solutions" are dead, long live the products. With e-@ction, Unisys introduces specific products targeting the publishing, banking, transportation and hotel industries along with others, as well as some renaming and redirecting of existing products.

To facilitate this infrastructure behind the screen, Unisys introduced its "first Intel-based mainframe," the ES 7000, which is based on Unisys’ Cellular Multiprocessing (CMP) technology. Capable of supporting Windows NT and 2000, UnixWare and other operating systems, the 32-way "partitionable" (up to eight four-processor partitions) ES 7000 server may be the closest thing to a mainframe-class Intel system, but it’s still no mainframe. Mostly due to the OS limitations, the ES 7000 is missing the workload and I/O management capabilities of today’s mainframe system; but it’s sure to give high-end UNIX systems a run for their money, up to one-fifth of the money, to be precise.

In a meeting with George Gazerwitz, currently the head of Unisys Systems and Technology, I was reminded that Unisys has always been a "technology and services" oriented company and that this new strategy solidifies this tradition with an emphasis on e-business. Also on hand was Mike Fister, VP of Intel Architecture Business Group and GM Enterprise Server Group at Intel. Mr. Fister’s take on all this, is that client/server computing took off like rabbits, but also multiplied as such. Consolidation and the ability to run 32- and 64-bit partitions simultaneously allows IT to "cage" the rabbits.

Bottom line? And we all know how important that is. It will take more than bright lights in the big city and buzz words to rule the e-land. It takes real products that address the needs of users – products that can be easily used by today’s users. It takes strategies and not bandwagon jumping; and finally, it takes a clear vision.

Self re-inventions aside, who will rule this land of the blind? The one-eyed king, of course.