In Business This Week: HEADLINER: PAUL O'NEILL
SEE WHAT A LITTLE SHMOOZING GETS YOU
When Alcoa Chairman Paul O'Neill has a question about computers, he often as not calls up a well-placed expert: Hewlett-Packard Chairman Lewis Platt. For years, the two have brainstormed about computers and manufacturing. Indeed, from his lofty post, Platt personally handles the Alcoa account. "He gives me quarterly reports," says O'Neill.
This week, Platt's relationship paid off big. Alcoa announced a $150 million investment in a communications network linking its far-flung operations--from mines in Australia to laptops in Tacoma, Wash.--built largely around HP technology. While banks and computer outfits have created similar networks, most companies in basic industries are only now piecing together rudimentary webs.
The Alcoa system will replace existing computers, many of them Apples, with 10,000 HP workstations running Microsoft's NT operating system, along with 450 servers. HP will be operating the system--which should mean that O'Neill and Platt will be exchanging plenty of E-mail.EDITED BY KEITH H. HAMMONDS By Stephen Baker