Adam Engst, our faithful Editor, said last year’s Macworld Boston show made 1990 the “year of the upgrades.” With the introduction of System 7, this years’ Expo could best be called Upgrade II… or is that Pro or 7.x? New products are no longer the height of the show; they have been replaced with bigger, better, more-feature-laden versions of the products you already know and love. That’s to be expected as the industry matures and there are fewer frontiers to explore, but it still takes some of the fun out of it.
One of the few areas with plenty of new activity is the integrated software market, which we’ve talked about the last few weeks. Claris and Beagle Bros showed their soon-to-be-released integrated products, which like already-shipping products from Microsoft and Symantec, are particularly good for new users, small businesses, and educational users, who typically need a little bit of a lot of things. The key differences are that the Claris and Beagle Bros offerings give users the ability to use different tools (i.e. word processing, drawing, and database tools) within the same document, rather than having to use separate documents with each segment of the program. According to Beagle Bros, this reflects “the true meaning of integration,” and we would have to agree. Otherwise, an “integrated package” is just a bundle of separate applications with one icon. Microsoft plans to upgrade their Works package, but there was no information as to when an upgrade would be available or what it would include. Rumours have it that Microsoft discarded an in-progress MS Works 3.0 and started from scratch when they saw the new crop of integrated packages they were up against.
On the hardware front, Outbound Systems introduced their new lightweight notebook computers. There are three basic models running at 20 MHz and all weighing in at 6.25 pounds, with internal 1.4Mb floppy drives, upgradeable microprocessors, a choice of hard drive options, and expandable system memory. The 68000 and the 68EC030 versions are available now, and a 68030 unit will be available after October (the 68EC030 microprocessor is functionally the same as a 68030 except that it lacks an MMU, needed for virtual memory). Each Outbound Notebook System is sold with a used Mac, whose ROM is installed into the Outbound notebook before the unit is shipped. In fact, Outbound repurchases the ROM-less used Mac shell before the user ever sees it. The result of this paper shuffle is that the customer simply receives an Outbound with ROM already installed, ready to go. The new Outbounds’ external connections include an ADB port, sound in/out, a 25 pin SCSI connector, and printer and modem ports. The built-in keyboard is a standard size, and the pointing device, now called a TrackBar, is an optical version of the IsoPoint with only minor functional differences. Apple’s notebook systems will have to work hard to compete with these impressive products, whose retail prices range from $2,529 to $4,299. DynaMac, whose portables we featured in January’s Macworld Expo issue, was also on hand with their computers, but are still not quite shipping the most impressive products. At least at this show they had working prototypes, rather than empty mock-ups.
The biggest news scoop of the show was from Lotus. All of us left-out-in-the-cold registered Jazz users (those of us who believed in the concept of integrated software from the start) will be able to upgrade to Lotus 1-2-3 for $49.00. Specific details aren’t available yet, but they’ll let us know how to upgrade when the product starts shipping. If you’ve moved since you registered your copy of Jazz, be sure to send Lotus a change-of-address notice!
Anther notable product being shown is Claris’s Resolve spreadsheet, one of the few Expo highlights currently shipping. Resolve fully supports System 7 features, such as publish and subscribe, Apple events, Balloon Help, TrueType and virtual memory. Owners of Excel, Lotus 1-2-3, WingZ, Full Impact and MacCalc can upgrade for $99, and should contact Claris for details.
The best bargain and the real honey of the show was Berkeley Systems’ More After Dark. MAD includes 26 add-on display modules for Berkeley Systems’ After Dark screen saver (which you must purchase separately, though some resellers are bundling the two at an attractive price). An AD updater is included to turn your 2.0-or-later copy of After Dark into the present version, 2.0v, which is compatible with System 7 and with the new 68040 accelerator boards and computers. These modules are really something else. One of the modules you get for a mere $39.95 is Lunatic Fringe, an addicting game by Ben Haller of Solarian II fame. It’s as good as any space ship game on the market. Candidates for Best Modules included Boris, a cute little purring cat; Globe, a spinning globe, which can be customized with the picture of your choice; Meadow, which creates a flowered meadow as it changes through the four seasons; and Mountains, which builds 3D ranges to your specifications on different planets. Mowin’ Man was cute, but remember to turn the sound down if you work in a busy office. Another key feature of MAD is Virex-D, a detect-only version of Virex, the antivirus utility from Microcom. Virex will check your drives while your computer is idle, and put 3-D versions of your icons on the screen as it works. The best of the best is that fourteen of the fifteen new modules tested fine on a Mac Plus running System 6.0.5, including Lunatic Fringe! (Meadow required 16 colors or gray-scale.)
StuffIt SpaceMaker from Aladdin Systems was another show stealer. This compression program can be configured to automatically compress any file on your hard disk. The program will compress files which have not been modified in a specified amount of time or are flagged with a keyword, in the background. SpaceMaker has many features, and like Disk Doubler will compress and decompress files on-the-fly. Although it was announced at the show, no shipping date was available. It will retail for $59.95. In the meantime, I’m pretty pleased with System7-savvy Salient Software’s Disk Doubler 3.7, available since June, slightly higher-priced at $79.95. One Salient bigwig was skeptical of the likelihood of Aladdin having an effect on their market, but a more forward-thinking marketing rep at Salient felt that the competition between Disk Doubler and SpaceMaker could only make the market bigger and more exciting to be part of.
One other item of note is Abaton’s InterShare, a $179 software product which allows modems and other direct-connect serial devices to be shared on a LocalTalk, EtherTalk, or TokenTalk network. It also allows Abaton’s and EMAC’s fax modems to be shared, with full fax functionality available to network users. This presents real hardware cost savings to companies who do not want to buy multiple modems for their networks. It contains a server application and Chooser client software, and works with software that supports the Comm Toolbox. The serial server Mac needs to be at least a Mac Plus with at least 1Mb of memory, but it need not be a dedicated server; any workstation can serve as a device server.
The downturn of the economy was evident in the lack of giveaways. Fewer companies than usual handed out buttons, bags, visors, hats, or sunglasses (items available in large numbers at previous shows). Most giveaways were reserved for the patient few who sat through whole demonstrations. The presents for those folks included hats, T-shirts, carry bags, and demonstration disks. Lotteries at some presentations yielded copies of software, Apple System 7 kits, and Apple video tapes. The best giveaway was a Lotus 1-2-3 watch. Show-goers liked the stick-on moose which Baseline gave to unsuspecting passerbys, and the Talking Moose himself was wandering around to liven up the show. Microtech gave out an audio CD to anyone who answered a set of questions about their products. Rumours that one of the companies gave out dehydrated ice cream were true, but which company remains a mystery to us! In addition, Digital Vision was taking photos using a still video camera and their Computer Eyes video capture board and returning a disk based TIFF or PICT image to the show participant.