Fall COMDEX: Rumours from the Floor- by Doug Hicken

Every year I take a few days out of my schedule and travel to Fall COMDEX to see what's new in regard to OS/2. In years past, IBM has made it a point to show off OS/2. This year, however, they took a different approach at their booth.

IBM had only one machine that they demoed Warp 4 on. Other vendors used it to demo their products, including Lotus, but IBM had only one person showing what Warp 4 could do. Instead, IBM offered "Solutions"; some of the solutions, like Voice Pilot, used OS/2, others used NT and Win95. In fact, they demoed the complete version of Voice Type Dictation on a Win95 machine. Their booth was much smaller than in years past. I was disturbed that IBM did no advertising that I could find for OS/2 at COMDEX.

While at the IBM booth, I talked to Terry Hamilton of True Spectra, makers of Photo>Graphics. Terry used to be an IBM representative for TeamOS/2 until IBM once again decided to back away from their support of that organization. Until just before COMDEX, TeamOS/2 was unable to get support from IBM to run any demos or to even get shirts for TeamOS/2 members. At the last minute, someone in Austin okayed funds for TeamOS/2 members at COMDEX. TeamOS/2 members were on the floor doing installs and made their presence known. As far as I know, support for TeamOS/2 from IBM is still up in the air.

For some time now, many insiders have felt that the OS/2 development community is very leery about their future. Most of the OS/2 vendors I talked to at COMDEX have plans to go multiplatform -- they have to. TrueSpectra, InnoVal and Stardock have all announced plans to go multiplatform, with others making plans to do the same. I also got the sense that many feel Java isn't going to be the savior of OS/2.

Speaking of Java, Corel demoed their Java suite, and it does work -- but it seems it will only have 20% of the features of the "real" suite. Why would anyone want to use a program with less functionality? Hopefully they will add the rest of the features soon, but it won't be a killer app at first. (editor's note: see our First Looks at the Corel Java Suite in this issue.)

I was surprised to hear from Corel that IBM Hursley in England has been very cooperative with them and that the suite runs faster using OS/2 (with the 1.02 Java runtime that comes with Netscape Navigator beta 2) than with any other platform. That was the best news I heard all week.

Lotus had working versions of Word Pro and Freelance Graphics that should ship before Christmas. The shipping versions will have FixPak 26 for Warp 3 and FP 1 for Warp 4 to get Open32 to work right. They were very knowledgeable about the products and said it had been a long year for them because of problems with Open32. The versions I saw were very stable compared to the betas most of us have tried.

Speaking with DevTech at the show, I found that they are frustrated with IBM regarding bugs in WarpCenter that make it "undistributable" in the corporate environment. Supposedly, the Warp 4 WarpCenter isn't object oriented and therefore can't be set up and simply transferred from one machine to another. DevTech told me they are telling their corporate clients to shut down WarpCenter to increase the stability of OS/2 and to be able to distribute Desktops. IBM knew there was a problem in April and wouldn't fix it because, "it was too late". IBM at their best.

Techies at Creative Labs mentioned that IBM was provided with beta versions of FULL DUPLEX drivers for Sound Blaster cards around April that were to be included in Merlin. Unfortunately, Creative Labs never heard back from IBM. It will be interesting to see if they continue to develop drivers for OS/2.

As many of you know, PowerQuest has just released v3.0 of Partition Magic. Because the majority of PowerQuest's sales are now in the Windows arena, most of the new features are for Windows users. And they are having a hard time justifying OS/2 development costs. They made it clear that they aren't abandoning the OS/2 market, but that most of their development effort is now geared at the Windows user.

Maybe now is a good time for all OS/2 users to start writing to PowerQuest and other OS/2 companies requesting that they continue their support of OS/2. Or even better, to continue buying their products to show them we are still committed.

In other news, there were rumours that Inside OS/2 (a German OS/2 print magazine) is considering coming to North America with their publication. It is a good looking magazine full of tips for exploiting OS/2. I got the impression that they are testing the water and like what they see. It is also rumoured that the magazine's staff has been in contact with OS/2 Magazine regarding their past operations.

Finally, though some of the news from COMDEX was bleak, IBM insisted that they will continue to release updates for OS/2 on the Web that not only fix bugs, but that add functionality until a new release in '98. And so ends my Rumours and Thoughts from the floor of Fall COMDEX '96.

Doug Hicken is a Team OS/2 member that has used OS/2 since OS/2 for Windows. He owns and operates a Pheasant Hunting Preserve in Utah. He welcomes your comments and insights.

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