Linfield's Line- by Kevin Linfield

COMDEX Canada Report

COMDEX Canada (Toronto) comes to SkyDome and the Metro Convention Centre each July and provides a technological show for thousands. This year I had the luxury of attending as a member of the press (I did an article on new software for Canada Computes! ) and I thought that I would give a small summary of what OS/2 related news I saw and heard at COMDEX. The big news for OS/2 was that Merlin won The Computer Paper! 's "Editor's Hot Pick" for best product of the show.

First off, I'd like to take a paragraph and thank Team OS/2 for their dedication and perseverance in the face of cutbacks by IBM and the onslaught of Windows NT and 95. This is the first year that Team OS/2 did not have a booth to answer questions and to demonstrate OS/2 and its applications to the thousands of attendees. Instead, a conference room was rented in an adjacent hotel and pink flyers were distributed telling people about getting more information and seeing demonstrations in the conference room. Of course, Team OS/2 members still combed the floor, talking to vendors (trying to get installs or support) and attendees.

I was quite disappointed at the lack of machines running OS/2 at COMDEX, although when you go to an event also featuring a show called "Windows World" you have to take what you get. Except for IBM, I didn't see anyone running any version of OS/2 on their own. Talking to Terry Hamilton (IBM's Team OS/2 liaison), he claims that Teamers installed the Merlin beta on maybe 3 vendor machines (MicroMart being a confirmed install). Even IBM's booth was (to me) a disappointment. They had about 3 machines with the Merlin beta running, but none were set up with Voice Type Dictation or Navigation (IMHO the killer application in Merlin). Lucky for IBM there were good crowds around the Merlin machines as interest was high.

IBM was demoing Merlin and the VTD to a seated audience in their auditorium, but it was limited to one demo per day (three days in total for COMDEX). Pitiful. Terry claims that approximately 20 vendors came down to the Team OS/2 conference room to check out the Merlin beta, so word was slowly getting out.

As for OS/2 software (and vendors), the Team OS/2 conference room featured demonstrations and talks on Merlin, Dr. Solomon's AntiVirus, IBM Visual Age, MGI Photoworks, IBM AntiVirus, IBM BESTeam, TruSpectra's Photo>GRAPHICS, and discussions with IBM Media Relations Anne Hays and IBM Product Manager Glenn Rogers. Those who attended were pleased, but it was unfortunate that the COMDEX masses were not a part of the audience.

I'll unfortunately conclude with some bad news. IBM Canada hosted a press luncheon on COMDEX Thursday and during that time we (the press) were informed that Warp was aimed at the home user to take on Windows 95 and that in IBM's opinion it failed (lack of pre-loads, market penetration, etc.). Subsequently, Merlin will not be marketed at the home user. OS/2 is now for the connected business consumer and it was sad to note that in a room full of press personnel I think that I was the only OS/2 user, and one of the few who had actually seen Merlin. I could give IBM advice, but I feel it would fall on deaf ears. I really hope IBM changes how it will target OS/2 by the Merlin launch (October?) but I'm a tad skeptical. Please don't shoot the messenger.


Kevin Linfield is a Toronto based consultant and a freelance writer. He can be reached via e-mail at linfield@torfree.net. Be sure to check out Linfield's List, Kevin's favourite OS/2 Freeware.

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