May 1992

Looking for love in all the wrong places

While NeXT and Sun were duking it out last month in Santa Clara, Sullivan found himself in Chicago on Agency business, so he dropped in at Comdex to assess the Windows damage. All the hubbub over operating systems that should be obsolete left him gasping, but he was able to pick up some interesting tidbits.

For an objective valuation on NeXTSTEP versus Microsoft's future OS, there was this item: Intel funded NeXT to the tune of $1 million for the '486 port, while it ponied up only $750,000 to Microsoft to get Windows NT on the platform.

Not much has been said about NeXTSTEP '486 since January. Yet there was Dell, which contrary to common perception has yet to announce an OEM deal with NeXT, quietly showing NeXTSTEP '486 in its booth.

At the Canon stand, Sullivan was able to price the native version of the bubble-jet color printer. It's not black and you'll need to make your own cables, but the Canon version costs $500 less than the NeXT Color Printer, and it's identical in every other way.

One product that wasn't showing was Improv for Windows, lending credence to Lotus's ham-handed denials of last month's rumors that it was ending support for the NeXT version. Sullivan is satisfied that Improv 2.0 remains on track for later this year. The well-known names behind Elegance, the would-be Appsoft challenger, are said to be making progress with the vulture capitalists, but they might have another problem now that Point of View Computing of Colorado Springs, Colorado, has shipped a collection of NeXT clip-art segments called, guess what, Elegance.

Speaking of well-known names in unlikely places, Sullivan got a chuckle while browsing through the .nib files in Glenn Reid's LaunchPad Dock extender. Sitting there plain as day was the iconized smiling face of Jayson Adams, whose Engage extender is Glenn's major competition. Jayson's trademark "nyuck, nyuck" laugh also turns up in the sound files. There's nothing wrong with this, since LaunchPad took advantage of NeXT's public-domain example files, which Jayson wrote, but it did leave Glenn with a slightly reddened face.

At NeXT, the 3.0 story is shaping up as a trade-off between features and ship date. For now, the company is sticking by its second-quarter delivery projection but without much conviction. How far it slips depends on which features stay in. Already on the casualty list is the Apple Desktop Bus keyboard and mouse that Sullivan described some months back. Whenever 3.0 sees the light of day, it isn't unlikely there will be a 3.1 a few months later.

Meanwhile, plans are beginning to firm up for the first NeXT portable, and batteries are not included. After careful discussions with various potential users, Steve appears to have opted for a full-powered machine with the accustomed large display at the expense of some portability. Apple's first portable settled for a heavy weight; NeXT's first portable will settle for a power cord. That means NeXT won't have to compromise on the processor, memory, or drive configuration. The display will almost certainly be Canon's hot new ferro-electric flat-panel display technology. It is a good way for Canon to get a real-world test in relatively small quantities while the yields are still low. And a new magneto-optical technology that's still under close wraps in Japan will possibly be handled the same way. In any event, you won't be able to get the luggable until next year sometime, but it might not hurt (to paraphrase Jean-Louis Gassee) to start pumping iron now.

The main body part that Sullivan has been exercising lately has been his data-entry fingers in Simson Garfinkel's beta address-book program. (When Simson sent out a call for product-name suggestions, the best feedback came from NeXT's Mike Slade, who offered DataFinkel.) Anyway, in one afternoon, Sullivan noted the change in numbers for Keith Ohlfs (from NeXT to private practice), Jack Reynolds (HSD to RightBrain), unrelated Rick Reynolds (BANG presidency to Publish magazine), and Dan'l Lewin (Go to Kaleida).

If you're switching jobs, there's no reason to leave all that secret information behind. Show up for your first day in a stylish Sullivan T-shirt signed by Steve Jobs. Acquire yours in exchange for an insider tip sent to or his voice mail at 415/978-3374.

Created by Stone Design's Create(tm) at 2005-09-01 19:41:57 -0500