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IBM demos Bluebird technology

Big Blue shows off its technology for centrally managing PCs and dumb-terminal systems.

Not to be outdone by Microsoft (MSFT), IBM (IBM) today demonstrated its own technology for centrally managing PCs and dumb-terminal systems.

At its Technical Interchange conference in St. Louis, IBM demonstrated for the first time a technology, code-named Bluebird, which lets IS managers deploy client applications and operating system software from a central server.

Although OS/2-based, Bluebird is intended to compete with similar managed PC technology from Microsoft that supports multiple dumb-terminal systems from the company's Windows NT Server operating system. The software giant announced this morning a $75 million licensing deal with Citrix Systems to build technology called Windows Terminal that lets diskless workstations, Windows CE-based handhelds, and other systems run applications stored on a central server.

Both technologies are intended to slash PC management costs. "Customers say the No. 1 problem is PC management," said John Soyring, director of worldwide technical projects at IBM, who estimated that Bluebird will help IBM customers trim 25 percent or more from their PC support costs.

The Bluebird technology consists of client-side operating software, which can be tailored to customer needs, and server-based utilities to manage multiple PCs. Soyring said the technology can be used to manage hundreds, or even thousands, of PCs from a single, central server.

The client software included with Bluebird will be packaged in three configurations: a basic multitasking kernel designed to run Java applications, a version that adds Netscape's Navigator, and a high-end version that includes the OS/2 Workplace shell for running OS/2 and 32-bit Windows applications, according to Soyring. IBM actually licenses the same Citrix technology as Microsoft, he added.

IBM has not determined Bluebird packaging or pricing. But Soyring noted that it will most likely be packaged as an update to OS/2 Warp Server, or as a separately priced option. Bluebird enters beta testing this summer.

According to Soyring, IBM already includes most of the technology needed to centrally manage PCs with OS/2 Warp Server. But making it work now requires programming and assembly. With Bluebird, "we decided to develop it as a product that can be dropped into Warp server and run," he said.