ICL’s Chantilly extravaganza at the beginning of the month was staged to put over the message that continentals should forget all the negative impressions they might ever have harboured about the company, the great French cartoonist Zvar’s celebrated Englishman in deerstalker, cape and Meerschaum pipe was dead, and in his place is born the cosmopolitan European, pursuing international standards with Messianic zeal.
Virtue of necessity
Having been pushed into offering industry standard operating systems for its Intel iAPX-86 family DRS range of distributed micros, ICL is now making a virtue out of a necessity, saying that by mid-1987, it will be able to offer users an unparallelled choice of systems and services available from a desktop workstation. The top of the range 80286-based DRS 300, was announced last March and the company claims around 5,000 sales for it. The DRS range originally ran only the proprietary DRX operating system, but last year the Digital Research PC-DOS-compatible Concurrent DOS was added with the DRS 300, and last week Unix, under the guise of DRS/NX, was announced as another option for the DRS 300. ICL also intends to release a range of software products for the DRS 300 to coincide with the launch of the Unix operating system on the machine, including the Informix database, Seachange, Staffware and a C compiler. Just prior to the Unix Users Show in May, ICL will be giving away more details on its Unix-based software and strategy for the Clan range. The launch of the 80386-based DRS Professional Workstation, a single-user multi-tasking machine, added another string to the ICL’s operating systems bow because it will be available with MS-DOS 4.0 which has an extended memory of up to 4Mb. In September the Professional Workstation will have MS DOS 4.1, which extends memory support further to 16Mb and is the result of a collaboration between Microsoft and ICL. The DRS Professional Workstation will typically be linked into a DRS 300 Microlan terminal network or to a mainframe using OSI communications facilities. ICL reckons that it has stolen a march of around nine months on IBM in addressing the same area as IBM’s new Personal System/2 by having the Professional Workstation available this July, and says that it will be offering a version of MS OS/2 – when it is actually a product. In the DEC arena ICL reckons that the PWS is roughly equivalent to the new VAXstation 2000 but ICL feels that its workstation will be a more competitive offering in the office environment mainly because of the MS-DOS operating system and the software available for it. It claims that the DRS 300 now has around 17,000 local area networks installed around Europe.
The launch of the Clan series of Unix machines is of course the longest movable feast in the history of the computer industry, but in case there was anyone there who hadn’t already encountered the machines, ICL launched the Clans all over again in the grounds of Chantilly Castle. The departmental Unix System V Clan range are of course sourced from Datamedia and Computer Consoles Inc and they are the Clan 4, 5, 6 and 7. The company also finally launched Office Power, from Computer Consoles Inc, on the continent and says it currently has 30 to 40 accounts in the UK: the office automation software was inherited from STC’s agreements with Computer Consoles. We can beat DEC on a price/performance ratio by a factor of three or four one company spokesman claimed. The company is spending UKP3m to UKP5m to persuade software houses to produce applications software for the Clan range. It has opened eight porting centres in the US, Australia, New Zealand, France, Holland, West Germany, Sweden and the UK. The company is looking at the possibility of manufacturing in both Spain and West Germany. Various tools, such as applications generators and databases, will be made available on the Clan range, including the Ingres database from Relational Technology Inc. The new Clan systems will support Oslan by the third quarter of 1987 using boards from Communications Ma
nagement Corp and SNA communications from Communications Solutions Corp, 3270 and LU 6.2 are available now. The Clan range currently supports TCP/IP and conventional Ethernet. The Clan 4 is a 68020-based machine from Datamedia which can support up to 32 users. It has a maximum memory of 14Mb and can support 448Mb disk storage and 60Mb cartridge tape. The Clan 5 was previewed at Sicob Printemps – it’s not due to start shipping until mid-year; it comes from Computer Consoles, uses 5.25 format disks and single phase power supply rather than three phase power supply. It will support 48 users and has a maximum memory of 8Mb and a maximum disk storage of 1.1Gb. The Clan 6 can have up to 32Mb memory and 6Gb of disk storage and support 64 users.
The Clan 7 has the same configuration as the maximum configured Clan 6 but will support 128 users. Detailed prices were not available but the company says that the cheapest Clan will cost around UKP20,000 and the most expensive UKP250,000. Tomo Razmilovic, president of ICL’s international operations, says the new machines are expected to bring in UKP100m in revenues outside the UK over the coming year. When ICL acquired the international operations of Singer Business Machines in 1976, it added substantial bases of Singer users on the continent, particularly in West Germany, and compared with the majority of acquisitions in the computer industry, the Singer takeover – at a bargain basement price – has to be rated a success: the Singer System Ten origins are still clearly recognisable in the top-selling System 25, the Singer 1500 was the direct forerunner of DRS, and ICL is recognised as a supplier of retail point-of-sales terminals in its own right, something else it inherited from Singer. Before the Great Fall in 1981, ICL’s international business was teetering on the brink of 50% of the total, but the need to mend fences and build bridges at home during the long convalescence, foreign business slumped to below 40% of the total. The company is now trying to win back its continental customers with the long term goal of hoisting foreign business to back over half of the total, and is stressing that it now recognises the UK is only a part of Europe – and that Europe is its home market.