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New name, but same old song at COMMON

The AS/400 may have a new name, the iSeries 400, but little has changed at the COMMON user conference in Baltimore. At the Soundoff sessions, attendees gave IBM's Tom Jarosh, who is leaving his job as IBM's manager of midmarket systems, an earful about the rebranding.

BALTIMORE--For three years, IBM's Tom Jarosh has put up with AS/400 users' complaints and concerns at COMMON's...

Soundoff sessions. He won't have to much longer.

Despite his announcement that he was leaving the position of IBM's manager of midmarket systems to take a newly created job heading up business development, Jarosh still got an earful at yesterday's session.

Buell Duncan, who currently heads up the company's worldwide channels organization, will take over. Duncan is no stranger to the platform, having worked both in the product division and in U.S. sales for the AS/400, Jarosh said.

To no one's surprise, the first Soundoff topic was IBM's renaming of the machine to the iSeries 400 earlier this month. AS/400 expert Al Barsa Jr. handed Jarosh a tongue-in-cheek compliment for giving the IBM server a name with the second-highest brand recognition after the i400, also a World War II-era Japanese submarine.

"It may help sales in Japan," Barsa humorously suggested.

But on a more serious note, Barsa questioned the logic behind the name change of the machine now, rather than when a technical advance was announced. Both the zSeries 900 (S/390) and the pSeries 600 (RS/6000) saw major announcements recently.

Theorictally, the iSeries 400 was the first in IBM's new family of eServers, Jarosh said. The problem was that marketing and technology weren't at the same points. Last spring IBM announced the model 800s and 270 but wasn't ready to rebrand its entire server line. Rather than hold up the technological improvements, the company released the systems before the name was changed. (IBM will ship new face plates to users who purchased the new systems.)

The real strength of the new name is that it tells potential customers that the platform is part of a larger family of IBM eServers, Jarosh said during the COMMON opening session yesterday morning. With over 60% of iSeries customers having other platforms on site, taking advantage of synergies between the various platforms is a good move, he said. Existing users should see this move as proof of IBM's future support for the platform, he said.

When marketing the AS/400, IBM used a slogan "run your business, not your computer." The iSeries will go the next level and run a company's e-business, Jarosh said.

Yesterday, IBM announced Connect for the iSeries, a Java and XML-based application that allows users to connect their iSeries machines with electronic marketplaces, such as Ariba Commerce Services Network or Intellisys. The product will be available in February of next year. (IBM, itself, has used an electronic marketplace for purchasing since 1993 and has saved $9 billion in the process, according to a company official.)

Despite all of IBM's musings about what their rebranding means, users at Soundoff still had a few things to say about marketing the platform.

"Are you going to have three frogs say 'eye-seer-eez?" one user jokingly asked in reference to a popular beer commercial. Instead of clever ad campaigns focusing on the "Magic Box" or "e-business," IBM should show a room full of guys trying to get a Unix machine to work properly juxtaposed with a man in a business suit going home at 5 p.m. because his company uses an AS/400, he suggested.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

To learn more about the iSeries campaign check out an IBM Webcast straight from COMMON with Jarosh, Bill Zeitler, IBM senior VP & group executive, and Frank Soltis, the iSeries chief scientist. It's on Wednesday at 10 am. EST. To register for the cast, see http://webevents.broadcast.com/ibm/iseries/home.asp?loc=7.

Or, visit the Web site for COMMON

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