IBM rediscovers the Desktop


IBM has charted a course to revive its position in the market by developing software designed to substantially reduce the costs of managing desktops.

Client Rescue and Recovery, one of the applications likely to debut next year, for instance, will let a person connect to the Internet and run diagnostic tests even if a PC hard drive is disabled and cannot boot the Windows operating system. Another application in development, Instant Connect, will simplify the process of establishing an out-of-office network connection.

IBM’s overall effort began about a year ago with the release of ImageUltra and RapidRestore, PC recovery tools. ImageUltra essentially simplifies the process of loading software onto fleets of PCs, often a time-consuming task for large companies. So far, customers can use ImageUltra only on IBM PCs, but the company is expanding it so that most of the functionality can be used to apply software to other brands of computers.

With RapidRestore, if a virus fatally cripples a desktop, a person can voluntarily wipe out the active parts of the hard drive by pressing the F11 key. An identical copy of the software and any data the person chooses to back up–all hidden beneath a partition in the hard drive–will then be recovered.

Client Rescue and Recovery is a more polished version of RapidRestore, Connors said. People can still wipe out the contents of their hard drives above the partition, but there are also less-drastic measures to take. If problems occur, a person can run diagnostic tests to determine the problem. Web connections can also be made without booting up Windows. Client Rescue and Recovery is tied to the BIOS (basic input-output system), so it does not depend on Windows.

Co-workers can also “jump start” one another’s PCs by sending over a copy of Client Rescue and Recovery. The stalled PC then functions like a thin client: It connects to the Internet because it can channel through the PC that is loaning it software.

Meanwhile, another upcoming software tool developed by IBM called Distributed Wireless Security Auditor lets administrators use PCs to detect unwanted wireless access points. With the application, every PC with 802.11 capabilities periodically sniffs for unlawful access–often wireless access points set up by employees for their convenience. Through geographic triangulation, the access point can be detected.

The wider angle: “IBM’s desktop revival is part and parcel of the “computing-on-demand” strategy laid out last month by new CEO Sam Palmisano. In the future, according to IBM, computing capabilities will be delivered the same way utilities such as electricity or gas is: Instead of building and running their own computer departments, companies will hire third-parties to deliver a variety of on-demand computing power for fees. Computer systems will also increasingly begin to monitor and fix themselves, or at least give administrators better warning about the problem, and advise them on how to repair it. ”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.