Esolutions: virtually a reality

That strange esolutions entity, dreamed up a year ago by Telecom, EDS and Microsoft to cash in on the e-commerce market, today launches an application service provider (ASP) operation.

That strange esolutions entity, dreamed up a year ago by Telecom, EDS and Microsoft to cash in on the e-commerce market, today launches an application service provider (ASP) operation.

What? Didn't it do this back in February, at a lavish function at Auckland's Eden Park? Apparently not.

It seems that until today the three-way alliance, which has made much of being a virtual organisation, was a mere illusion. Now, however, while still virtual, it becomes a real, live ASP.

Perhaps the fact that many of us thought esolutions had been a real, live ASP for half a year already proves we can't cope with the concept of virtual organisations.

Perhaps it also shows that in the so-called new economy, the creation of a new company has become like a software launch: first comes the pre-announcement (in July last year; still vapourware at that stage); then the beta release (February's Eden Park affair); then the shipping product (today's announcement). In the software world, we all know what comes next - the service pack (formerly known as the bug fix).

Back in February we heard about the beta tester, ASB Bank, which was to try out Microsoft Office on a rental basis, using Windows NT Terminal Server and Citrix Metaframe.

The beta testing didn't go entirely smoothly, it transpires. There were difficulties getting the bank and host firewalls to co-operate; and satisfying the bank's wish to keep customer data within its confines as opposed to at the host site (as a bank user, I'm reassured by that requirement) was problematic. The beta tester has not, as yet, signed on as an esolutions customer.

(By the way, if you sign up as an esolutions customer, with whom do you have a contract? It turns out it's with Telecom or EDS. Esolutions is virtual, remember.)

Now, as reported in the story, Esolutions launches ASP service, those services that were in beta testing, are shipping. And for all the talk about being virtual, esolutions' general manager, portfolio manager and brand manager seemed real enough at a meeting last week at which this was announced (my hand didn't pass without resistance through theirs as we went to shake).

But I don't know about brand managers; we're getting right back into phantom territory when they enter the picture. What, after all, is a brand? Not a tangible thing, if you ask me.

You can see I'm struggling with this virtual business business. But I guess we've come to talk about the rest of the industry's vapourware as almost real, so the same transformation will probably happen here. I'm virtually sure of it.

Send email to Computerworld's editor Anthony Doesburg. Letters for publication can be sent to cw_letters@idg.co.nz

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