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February 23, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

Overshadowing the myriad announcements of products, distribution agreements and alliances at the Uniforum exhibition at the Dallas Infomart earlier this month, writes Mike Faden, was the overwhelming sense of money and commitment – at least in words from major players. Only 17,000 or so attendees registered – but feel the quality! Any last vestiges of the operating systems’ off-beat technical background or debate about whether Unix will be a success were swept away by an emphasis on marketing more akin, as US observers noted, to Comdex than to past Unix exhibitions. And with industry names like Apple’s John Sculley and IBM’s Bill Lowe there to beat the drum about their companies’ commitment, the emphasis on developments shifted to a businesslike approach to tackling the remaining unsolved areas of standards. In the key area of deciding the look and feel of Unix systems for the forseeable future, AT&T is close to its promised deadline for announcing a decision for the joint development with Sun Microsystems; among the contenders are Microsoft’s presentation manager and Apple’s Mac interface. The European inspired X/Open Group is now being taken just as seriously in the US as at home, and Microsoft generated a considerable stir by pitching Presentation Manager to X/Open in an offer believed to include promises of the nature of putting the specifications or even aspects of the product itself into the public domain. Other companies, such as DEC and Hewlett Packard, appeared to be already ploughing ahead with their proprietary user interfaces: everyone was discussing the problem of how the X Window System would be integrated with the eventual look-and-feel standard. Meanwhile the marketing hit of the show – and a likely precursor of things to come – was the Informix stand dedicated to the Wingz spreadsheet/graphics package, now running under Apple’s A/UX. More like something from a consumer electronics or PC hobbyists show, the stand featured a space capsule-like structure within which visitors were assailed with a simulated countdown, liftoff and demonstration. What lured the punters was in fact the promise of free Wingz shoulder-bags; the result was continual long lines of people waiting to enter – at least until the bags ran out.

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