|Sully ponders new ports in the storm|
After his run-in last time with a suspicious Agency bureaucrat, Sullivan asked his field agents to file their reports early. He wasn't sure how long he could keep the NeXT operation hygienic. Now, as he took a limo to Dulles to meet an operative, he glanced through the intelligence.
Most intriguing were the reports about new discussions on porting NeXTstep to other architectures. Sullivan was fascinated to read that SPARC is not being actively considered in the latest rounds of these talks. Rather, it's Hewlett-Packard and even Atari that are being courted. HP's Snake line would make a very nice host for NeXTstep (much to SunSoft's likely chagrin).
Atari, on the other hand, is less obvious to UNIX observers. Did you know that Atari's 68030-based product line is beginning to nip at the heals of high-end Macintoshes. . .and at half their price? Did you know as well that 68040-based products due this fall will list for one-third the price of Apple's Quadra line? Shrinkwrapped NeXTstep for HP and Atari machines would make sense for several markets that are currently under-served.
Other operating system progress at NeXT is not moving along quite so smoothly. NeXTstep 3.0 beta CD-ROMs have been delayed again. If you are trying to plan your development efforts in advance, Sully is guessing the end of April or first week of May for your first CD-ROM. Consider shipping NeXT a spare hard drive instead, but keep in mind that they have their hands full these days.
Stone Design had to tap NeXT a couple months ago, just before sales of DataPhile became brisk. (Compaq even bought a few copies recently.) It took a little convincing to get NeXT to fix some serious bugs in its proprietary B-tree package. An earlier B-tree release relied on a file-locking algorithm, a necessity in a multiuser database package, that simply did not work. Stone managed a temporary local fix, but finally convinced NeXT to fix the root problem.
DEC gave its best shot to convincing NeXT to use its hot new Alpha chip for NeXT RISC products. Reportedly, the chip's high price tag was the sticking point, but Lt. Sullivan suspects the entrenched progress of a certain other architecture just proved to have too much momentum.
If you are considering becoming a registered NeXT developer, Sullivan advises you move quickly in obtaining and filing your application. Word inside NeXT is that the NeXT Registered Developer Program is likely to be completely revamped later this spring. Almost certainly, this will mean additional costs associated with being a NeRD. Like refinancing your house, you don't want to wait until it is one day too late.
The Canadian tundra has become a battleground as NeXT and Sun slug it out over a potentially large (400-plus) workstation installation in Alberta. At the time Sullivan filed his dispatch, Sun Canada did not know it had lost the sale, which is unfortunate for them. Only this past January, Sullivan's counterpart Raymond Rank of SunWorld magazine, reported that Sun Canada was targeted to have reached $25 million in sales several quarters back and was only at $2.5 million to date. Try giving away more T-shirts and coffee mugs, boys.
One area that is beginning to turn around nicely for NeXT is the publishing market. With four announced page-layout products Ð FrameMaker, PasteUp, PageOne, and the Archetype system Ð NeXT finally has an answer for the publishing market. Sullivan's field analysis shows that buyers are listening.
For example, one of NeXT's VARs did a 100-unit deal to a newspaper in Mexico based on Archetype's engine. You wouldn't believe how many value-added resellers and systems integrators are interested in using the engine for their projects.
A piece of personal good news has come in. Rumor has it that NeXT has finally replaced Peter Karnig as publishing advocate, and the surprise is. . . she's Lt. Sullivan's cousin (or at least that's what he says). Julie Sullivan Acosta, recently of Sun Microsystems, will be filling Karnig's old position. She was last a senior product manager in SunPics (the printing and imaging business unit that was formed last year in Sun's planetary realignment) focusing on font technology and printing software.
In the meantime, Color Tomorrow's contract has been extended to follow up the more than 500 leads from the NeXT Publishers Alliance conferences at Seybold and Imprinta.
Lt. Sullivan met with literary lion Norman Mailer during his recent Agency visit. Norm's got some very romantic notions about how intelligence is gathered. In the NeXT world, a T-shirt signed by Steve Jobs brings in the data. Get yours in exchange for an insider tip sent to Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org or his voice mail at 415/978-3374.