European Sites Begin Testing IBM Network Device

Major corporate customers have begun to sign up for IBM's first large-scale beta test of the network computer device that company officials say is key to dramatically reducing the total cost of computing.

IBM now has more than 1000 of its InterPersonal Computers (IPCs) distributed among European beta testers. Most of the IPCs were manufactured and delivered out of the company's manufacturing facility in Greenock, Scotland, sources close to the company say.

Initial feedback from most beta testers on the first IPCs is positive, and one IBM official says it has already closed a purchase order with a large company based in Europe.

Although IBM officials have declined to identify the company, sources say two European companies, including Mercedes-Benz, are on the verge of ordering a few hundred IBM integrated IPC systems on a special bid basis.

"We have signed a contract with one [Europe-based] company for a few hundred systems, but [they] will eventually take in thousands as they roll out their application," says Ozzie Osborne, IBM's vice-president of systems strategy for desktops and notebooks. "We are seeing some major customers take a look at this thing."

At briefings in Raleigh, North Carolina, in February, IBM showed off three different models, including the "all-in-one," or integrated, IPC now being aggressively beta tested. That unit had an attached 14-inch color monitor, 8M bytes of RAM, a keyboard, and a small hard disk of 20M to 40M bytes. IBM is testing both 486- and Pentium-based.

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