|Volume 1: No. 20|
Unisys had a bad quarter, and is planning to cut 10,000 jobs this year. HP is planning to trim just 2,000 jobs. [Computerworld, 7/29.]
Charles House is taking over as VP of Product Management and Development at Informix Software Inc. (Menlo Park, CA), after 29 years with HP. [SJ Mercury, 7/30.]
Donald Kennedy has resigned as president of Stanford, but will remain through the '91-92 school year. ONR claims that Stanford may have overbilled the government as much as $20M during the last ten years. Stanford's [accepted] practice was to bill for representative costs instead of detailed research expenses, but the choice of representative items was sometimes inappropriate. Faculty are divided over whether the President should be held accountable for accounting practices, and that controversy has led to the resignation.
Nearly all computer manufacturers are working on pen-based computing. Portia Isaacson, publisher of Pen-PC Report, says "There's never been a product in the industry that has so much techno-lust associated with it." Grid is selling a version now, but the real market is not expected to develop for several years. (The market is there, but current models are too heavy, too limited, too expensive, and too fragile.) Cursive handwriting recognition is expected to remain a bottleneck. Companies like IBM, Nestor (Providence, RI), and Communications Intelligence Corp. (Menlo Park, CA) are working on it. [Rory J. O'Connor, SJ Mercury, 7/28.]
The Software Publishers Association has released a study of the 1990 entertainment software industry in North America. Total sales were $355M, mostly at Christmas time. The Kuwait crisis boosted sales of simulation software, including flight simulators and war games, to 35% of the total; arcade/action games took 26% and role-playing games 22%. 73% of the software was for MS DOS, 10% Amiga, 8% Commodore, and much of the remaining 9% for Macintosh and Apple II. (Apple has failed to support entertainment developers, apparently fearing damage to the Mac's image as a business machine.) [Mike Markowitz, MicroTimes, 8/5.]
Electronic Arts sells entertainment software for all ages. In the U.S., its 1991 annual report touts software for 10-year- olds wanting to test reflexes, 21-year-olds managing simulated sports teams, and 35-year-olds test-piloting million-dollar aircraft. The company's best seller in Japan is Populous, a game where the player controls the fate of the world. The game's successor, PowerMonger, is a best seller in Europe. [David Needle, Computer Currents, 7/16.]
Bellcore has been changing under the guidance of George Heilmeier, its president for the last five months. The organization had been bogged down in committees, management by consensus, and attempts to please all seven of the local Bell operating companies. Heilmeier is asking scientists for priorities, advocacy, and accountability, all aimed at reduced bureaucracy, faster decision making, and higher quality. He also wants less physical science and more of the information sciences, especially OOP, multimedia, fuzzy logic, and databases. [Emily T. Smith, Business Week, 8/5.]
John S. May, the new president of AT&T Bell Labs, thinks along the same lines. He wants a profit-minded industrial lab, not a Nobel physics breeding ground. 90% of the Lab budget is already in development activities, but the $300M research section was reorganized last year to emphasize information science and other "practical" fields. It has become much harder to get long- term projects approved. [Peter Coy, Business Week, 8/5.]
Four Pentagon studies have shown Ada superior to C++ for military software projects. Ada is more mature, more standardized, has more vendors, and has richer development tools. (C++ is said to be about three years behind. It compiles faster and has better runtime efficiency, though, and has better support for object-oriented design.) TRW says that Ada coding is faster and with fewer errors, resulting in a 35% productivity and cost advantage, as well as a 70% maintenance advantage. The advantages may drop to 10% and 30% by 1994. [Gary H. Anthes, Computerworld, 7/29.] (A fifth study by the Naval Postgraduate School showed a 10-fold productivity advantage for fourth-generation languages.)
One of the hottest languages right now is Visual Basic, Microsoft's new $199 scripting language for Windows. "If I were buying one programming language today for a student, for quick prototyping in Windows, even for trying to cash in on the commercial fascination with Windows programs, I'd go for Visual Basic." [Phillip Robinson, SF Mercury, 8/4.] The language provides the same power and ease of use as HyperCard, but works at the "desktop" level so that you can invoke and control other programs. (In the Mac world, there's a new language called Frontier that serves much the same purpose.) Visual Basic uses the same syntax as Microsoft's other Basics, but provides menu- driven programming of icons, forms, dialog boxes, pull-down menus, controls, buttons, etc.
Smalltalk is making a comeback now that hardware is powerful enough to support it. ParcPlace Systems (Mountain View, CA) has been selling the original Smalltalk, which offers the strongest object-oriented support tools of any language. Digitalk Inc. (Los Angeles, CA) is selling a lower-cost Smalltalk for OS/2 and Windows, and both IBM and Microsoft have endorsed and licensed Smalltalk links to their environments. Several corporate MIS shops are now using Smalltalk for critical applications, especially client/server GUIs. [Jeff Moad, Datamation, 7/15.]
Sequent Computer Systems Inc. (Beaverton, OR) is offering the first object-oriented multiprocessing system. The Symmetry 2000 system combines Objectworks/Smalltalk from ParcPlace Systems with an OODB system from Versant Object Technology (Menlo Park, CA), at $3,500 each. (503) 578-9855. [EE Times, 7/15.]