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WEST LEAVES DG AS THIIN LINE UNIT AWAITS MARKET ACCEPTANCE

Tom West, senior vice president at Data General Corp and the man made famous in Tracy Kidder’s book The Soul of a New Machine is to leave the company he’s worked at for the last 25 years, most recently heading up its THiiN Line internet appliance business unit. West, who led the development of Data General’s first 32- bit computer in the late 1970s, the current range of AViiON servers in the late 1980s, and then oversaw the formation of the company’s CLARiiON storage business division in the early 1990s, will continue to act as a consultant for the company. As THiiN Line is ready to become a bona fida Data General business, I believe now is an opportune time for me to chart a new course in my life and my relationship with Data General, said West in a statement. But it looks as if the battle to establish the THiiN Line division could provide the material for a second book. West, frustrated by the industry’s slow progress towards thin client software and hardware, is on the record as having argued with Data General Corp chief executive officer Ron Skates over the project. He is known to have wanted Data General to have produced its own low-cost thin client hardware, rather than waiting for others on the market to develop and produce them. They’re over intellectualizing the problem he said of the likes of Boundless Technologies Inc and Diba Inc last year (CI No 3,066). All you need is a browser and TCP/IP. We’re getting pissed off waiting for it to happen – and we’re going to have to move and do it ourselves. Skates responded: We have to wait and see what happens. I know that Tom has a different attitude. Although West went as far as producing prototype thin clients, Skates appears to have won the argument, and to date Data General has launched only products designed to build the infrastructure that will surround thin clients, such as its SiteStak web server, launched last month, an internet appliance designed to store and serve HTML pages (CI No 3,245). Next month it plans to launch the Thin Server, designed to serve up to eight thin clients via wireless local area network, and a dedicated mail server is also in the plans. But West had anticipated that millions of thin clients to be hooked up to the web by now. Unless the thin client market itself takes off, Data General’s THiiN Line division will have a hard time finding any customers. Phil Gershwin gets the Thiin Line group; Linda Metzer is VP Unix Business unit; and Dave Ellenberg is VP NT Business unit.

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