Systems Designers Plc is placing a beady eye on the artificial intelligence market and at the opening of its new AI Business Centre in London’s West End it also offered a foretaste of a suite of knowledge-based products due for launch later in the current year. The company claims that it has carried out the most extensive review of the artificial intelligence market to date and on the strength of this it foresees a huge increase in expenditure on such products and services beginning in 1987. To cater for this it has set up a separate marketing operation within its software division and is fast preparing follow up products to its existing range which includes Envisage, the DEC VAX-based expert system shell; SD.Prolog for the IBM Personal; and Poplog language compiler which runs under a range of mini and mainframe environments. The plan is to keep all these except Envisage, and to introduce three new products. Perhaps the most important will be Visa, an expert system shell to replace Envisage and which will run on the VAX and on IBM mainframes. There is also a PC-DOS version of this, PC.Visa. The rationale is, according to AI international marketing director Philip Berber, to provide a Personal Computer-based shell where people can enter the market, but from where the user can then upgrade. Upgradability is one of the key issues behind this strategy rival products do not, we believe, offer this facility. Berber said that Visa will not be priced to compete with similar products currently on the market – it will come in above these products and will be priced at a premium; we will be emphasising Visa’s upgradability. The other product will be VAX Tuner, an expert system which can be put on the VAX and which will advise the user on how to balance and optimise his system. VAX Tuner has been put together using the knowledge and experience of a number of experienced VAX users. Berber emphasised that these products were only being previewed and that their launch dates and proper titles had yet to be finalised – however all of the product will be out by the end of the third quarter of 1987.
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