After successful test run, retail giant Sears, Roebuck and Co. is installing between 700 and 1,000 of IBM's Network Stations to run its delivery and customer-service applications. Steve Rutkowski, director of direct delivery systems at Sears, said the company turned to Network Station Series 1000, IBM's version of Sun's Java Station, because it packs a high-powered PC processing punch but is highly manageable and simple. "We think we see some benefits with this because we get all the capabilities of a PC without the full-blown expenses," Rutkowski said.
Sears wants to develop an internet-based application using Java that will let customers track their deliveries and service. That could eliminate about 40 percent of the calls to service representatives, according to Rutkowski, who noted that the company makes 4 million deliveries per year from more than 100 service centers across the country.
Observers said ready to go Java-enabled productivity applications, like Lotus Development's Java-based Esuite productivity software suite, which comes free with IBM's Netwrok Stations and a strong showing by pilot test users of network computers are assuring users that lower prices and support costs don't have to add up to limited functionality and slower performance. To date, those issues have been the biggest stumbling blocks to network computer adoption.
a. Why is Sears moving to network computers?
b. What are the business benefits and limitations of using network computers?