LAS VEGAS—IBM has plans to make its notebook customers feel more secure, both in terms of the well-being of their personal data and in the sanctuary of their companies WLANs.
The company next year plans to launch several new applications to ease management of mobile PCs, both for the IT manager in the home office and for the individual user.
“Were trying to make things less of a hassle for the user,” said Brian Connors, chief technology officer and vice president of business development and quality at IBMs personal systems group in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
Estimating that 80 percent of a companys computer problems are related to management issues, Connors said that will be a major focus for IBM in the coming years.
“Clearly our focus in the past was on speeds and feeds,” he said. “Nobody thought they could go after that 80 percent. It was always owned by Wintel.”
Within a year, IBM plans to launch Client Rescue and Recovery software, which includes a set of features built into the computer that make it easier to deal with computer crises such as data loss and hard drive failures.
The GUI is OS independent, so users can get access to the Web even if they cant boot up their operating systems. This means they can get in touch with their IT managers via a Web-based e-mail system even if they dont have access to the corporate e-mail system.
The system also includes troubleshooting messages that give definitive answers to whats wrong with the computer so users who call their help desk from the road can accurately explain what the problem is. Furthermore, it includes a feature that makes it fairly simple to move data from a bad computer and onto a good one.
“We look at it as a lifeboat,” Connors said.
: IBM Aims to Ease Mobile PC Management”>
Client Rescue and Recovery is the next step up from IBMs Rapid Restore PC software, which lets users restore files with the touch of a button in the event of a crash, virus or application problem.
IBM also next year plans to launch the Distributed Wireless Security Auditor (DWSA), a system that lets all the PCs in an office work together to detect rogue access points on the company WLAN.
When several computers detect such an access point, the central network can triangulate the data and home in on the rogue.
“DWSA uses the Thinkpad as a set of distributed eyes and ears,” Connors said.
IBM already enables Thinkpads to detect rogue access points and act as wireless security auditors of sorts, but the new system makes it easier to find the rogue—even if the rogue is on the move—because the computers are working together.
“Just adding one letter [D] seemed to fix everything,” said Michael Vanover, architect/visionary at IBMs Personal Systems Group.
The system includes a map of a companys network, with rogue access points marked in red.
DWSA will be available within a year, as well, Connors said. Beyond that, IBM is working on ways to help companies automatically secure a rogue access point and add it to the network so it ends up working for the official WLAN after all.
“Were thinking of turning the bad guy into a good guy,” Connors said.
And to make it easier to configure a computer for a WLAN in the first place, IBM next year plans to launch Instant Connections, a feature for Thinkpads and other PCs that detects the type of connection—wired or wireless—and configures itself accordingly, meaning users dont have to remember IP addresses, WEP keys and the like.
While IBM remains committed to wireless technology on its notebook computers, Connors said that there are no plans to branch out into other form factors such as Microsoft Corp.s new Tablet PC or a smaller handheld device.
“Were not doing a Tablet,” Connors said. “Weve been in that space twice before, first in the late 80s and then with the Transnote. Its appropriate for vertical markets, but its still too early.”
IBMs Global Services division resells handheld computers from other manufacturers, but thats the extent of IBMs commitment to handheld hardware in the near future, Connors said.