January 1992

Competition hits close to home for Sullivan

Sullivan was making last-minute plans for the Expo when the call came through from the Hill. Those oversight committee boys are a pain in the backside, but the Lieutenant had always found it useful to cultivate his own circle of friends. Now his favorite Senator was on the horn asking, of all things, about the NeXT.

"What's the big deal with this black box?" he asked. It seems the Senator had heard about the new NeXT installation in the Joint Chiefs' office, and then later that same day received an invitation to speak to a convention of NeXT computer users. Of course, the timing couldn't have been worse, with a round of politicking scheduled back home and the new session starting.

"Hey, it's a chance to speak to a receptive audience about information highways and competitiveness," Sullivan countered. "And maybe you can get a loaner out of the deal. It'll help in keeping up with General Powell." "We'll see," said the Senator.

Speaking of competitiveness, there's a lot of action on the database front. Blue Star Technologies is showing off hot database technology in a private Expo suite. Its StarGate & StarBase have agent-administration technology for improved data access and true distributed processing. Database experts say it is a quantum leap over Sybase and Oracle. StarBase's Kanji abilities, also unique, are exciting admirers in Japan. Merle Proulx, author of the first relational database in 1962, is said to be the genius behind this project.

Meanwhile, NeXT has loaned a fully-configured NeXTstation to FairCom, a Missouri-based database company, which is porting its low-priced SQL database server to the NeXT platform. The FairCom SQL server costs $79 for a single-user license and $1500 for the unlimited license, yet reportedly has performance that is the same as Ð or even better than Ð Sybase for similarly sized databases.

Of course, having NeXT computers installed at a software company is no guarantee of product releases. Witness Aldus's pack of NeXT development stations that are used for prototyping apps to be developed for Macs or Windows. In Ohio, Fox Software's CEO, Dave Fulton, is a NeXT fan, but there is no present plan to produce a FoxBase NeXT product Ð at least not yet. Instead, aging FoxBase+ for SCO's OpenDesktop will be updated to FoxPro.

There is also a competitive market for experienced NeXT developers, the surest sign that the platform has taken off. So far, Boss Logic probably holds the distinction of being the largest NeXT development shop, with 30-something engineers developing products or writing custom software. In hot pursuit is Williams Telecommunications, in Woodlands, Texas, which is looking to add another 35 NeXTstep engineers to the team it has working on a huge wide-area networking project. If you're interested, call Vince Jordan and tell him Sully sent you.

Appsoft wants to corner the talent market down the road, but first it's focusing on republishing deals. That market's heating up, too, with some bidding competition expected from a startup (tentatively called Elegance) that expects to offer as many as five products in its first year. No word yet on its source of capitalization.

Here's an anticompetition story from the seamy underbelly. After months on the Internet archives, a screen-saver program called Backspace, which was developed by a NeXT employee, has been yanked from shareware distribution. It seems that NeXT management buckled under pressure from third parties, thereby quashing the screen saver many consider to be the best of the current crop. Fortunately, commercial screen-saver programs are able to use the many clever display modules already developed for Backspace.

Even Sullivan has to worry a bit about the competition, which is why he has to make time this busy week for a meeting of the minds with Robert X. Cringely of Pammy fame. Not quite a turf battle, but an exchange of professional advice. Cringe ran some nice items on the ferro-electric flat-panel display and updated Canon magneto-optical technology in InfoWorld. But his timing information has been wildly off base. If you're going to dabble in NeXT rumors, Bob, at least check them out.

He would also have words over lunch with his editor at NeXTWORLD. Be careful with that word processor, pal. No, the news wasn't that NeXT had begun extending credit terms to purchasers, but that it was doing so across the board, rather than secretly and selectively.

The world's best competitive weapon is information. As usual, Sullivan is all ears. Find him all over town this week or forward your tips to sullivan@nextworld.com, 415/978-3196 (fax), or 415/978-3374 (voice). The shirt offer stands.

Created by Stone Design's Create(tm) at 2005-08-20 23:32:50 -0500