The end of the PC-driven era in computing

The end of the PC-driven era in computing

Don't mourn it, but be aware that the firing of Eckhard Pfeiffer ends the PC-driven era in computing. Whatever doubts you had should have vanished last month when Compaq dumped its CEO and moved to accelerate its transition to an enterprise computing and Internet company. Swallowing Tandem and Digital was obviously more difficult than anticipated.

Not that Compaq is alone in the post-PC disarray. IBM reported $US1 billion in losses on its PC business. The scary truth is that selling PCs directly will likely be the endgame for all.

How smart does Sun Microsystems look now? Very! After all the bashing the company took for its Unix-only strategy, Sun's focus and flexibility have paid off.

Its enterprise server initiative is succeeding, with 40 per cent of Starfire servers sold through the channel. Sun's stock is flying high, and its channel growth continues at 30 per cent annually. Even the at-first puzzling lash-up with Netscape and America Online now looks very smart indeed.

At Sun's recent Executive Alliance Summit, COO Ed Zander defined the new reality:

The Web is everywhere - and always on;

Services, not products, are key; and

This is a post-PC, post-proprietary era.

Sun's CEO Scott McNealy ended the meeting with a sobering wrap-up: brace for the rise of the application service providers. End users will get their high-tech stuff (ERP, general ledger, CRM - you pick the functionality) over a "Web-tone switch". Better buddy-up with these folks or become one fast, he says. He's right! This has big implications for Sun - which derives 60 per cent of its revenues from the channel - and for all of us.

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