Macworld Expo – Internet Wannabes Galore
Every year, like all members of the press, we try to figure out the unofficial theme of the show. This year, the annual Netters’ Dinner stood in traditional relief against this unofficial theme: Internet products by those who don’t quite get it (and a few who do). This was the first year that vendors seemed relatively email savvy, and Tonya and Geoff commented on the fact that saying they were from TidBITS resulted in a fair amount of recognition this year (although still far more from developers than marketing people, not surprisingly). Richard Huff created an unofficial Macworld Expo home page, complete with some photos from his QuickTake.
Here are some of the more noticeable Internet attempts and successes of the show.
Global Village introduced the OneWorld Internet, a $2,000 box that connects an Ethernet network to the Internet via a 28,800 bps modem (no doubt a PowerPort Mercury). An ISDN version is also in the works, but both versions suffer from ludicrously expensive charges. Since the connection is through an 800 number (and thus U.S.-only, I presume), the cost is $8.95 per hour plus a monthly fee based on the number of users at your site. When I calculated this out for the minimum number of users connecting for only four hours per day, it was not only twice as slow, but also roughly twice as expensive as my dedicated 56K frame relay connection. The box seems only to work with QuickMail for email, which limits it to sites that have QuickMail installed. Although the OneWorld Internet box sports some technically impressive features, and Global Village provides some Internet amenities such as custom domain names, the usage prices make the product easy to ignore.
Global Village — <[email protected]> — 408/523-1000 — 408/523-2407 (fax)
InterCon Systems showed version 2.1 of TCP/Connect II, their integrated Internet access package, which primarily adds support for the SOCKS standard for navigating firewalls and a fast Web browser that is not licensed from some other vendor. Also new from InterCon was the $195 ($89 at the show) TCP/Connect II Remote software package, which does everything the complete version of TCP/Connect II does, but uses its own implementation of TCP and SLIP or PPP. In other words, via TCP/Connect II Remote, you can use most of the popular services on the Internet, such as email, news (including offline reading), FTP, Gopher, and the Web, but you cannot use MacTCP programs such as Eudora, NewsWatcher, Anarchie, and MacWeb.
InterCon Systems — <[email protected]> — 703/709-5500 — 703/709-5555 (fax)
Synergy Software wasn’t showing anything new, but was celebrating VersaTerm’s tenth birthday. It’s nice to see a small company like Synergy continue to produce high-quality communications software like VersaTerm and VersaTerm-Link (an integrated Internet access program with which TCP/Connect II Remote will compete) for all these years.
Synergy Software — <[email protected]> — 610/779-0522 — 610/370-0548 (fax)
StarNine was showing a pre-release version of EMail-On-Demand, a mailing list manager program for the Macintosh that works with any SMTP server like MailShare or StarNine Mail*Link gateways, any POP3/SMTP mail system like Eudora, and with the LAN email packages QuickMail and Microsoft Mail. EMail-On-Demand (eMOD) supports LISTSERV-like mailing lists, auto-reply capabilities for returning information based on the address or subject of a message, and direct mailing lists for distributing mail to a number of people all at once. eMOD does all of this with a collection of user-created rules, where each rule is comprised of a trigger and an action. eMOD is slated for a first quarter release.
StarNine — <[email protected]> (put "subscribe" in the subject of the message to subscribe to the eMOD mailing list) — 510/649-4949 — 510/548-0393 (fax)
Open Door Networks announced that it now offers Internet access in a rather unique way, through Apple Remote Access (ARA). With MacTCP installed and configured properly (Open Door Networks will sell you MacTCP if you don’t have it), you can use ARA (assuming you own it as well) to connect and access AppleTalk services on the host servers, all at the same time as you run MacTCP-based applications to access the rest of the Internet. The prices are currently high, but the concept is an interesting one.
Open Door Networks — <[email protected]>
Software Ventures moved beyond MicroPhone’s terminal emulation with Snatcher, a graphical FTP client that makes heavy use of drag & drop, and thus requires System 7.5 or System 7.1 with Finder 7.1.3, AppleScript 1.1, Drag and Drop 1.1, and of course, MacTCP. Although Snatcher doesn’t do anything particularly wrong (other than closing windows when the FTP connection goes away), neither does it particularly distinguish itself from Peter Lewis’s shareware Anarchie, other than by more closely resembling the Finder. Perhaps the main audience for this version of Snatcher will be a company that wants to use FTP as the primary method for distributing files instead of AppleShare, since Snatcher can display proper icons for files on FTP sites based on filename extensions (only an internal site would use extensions for file types other than the few basic Internet types).
Software Ventures — <[email protected]> — 510/644-3232 — 510/848-0885 (fax)
OpenSoft also weighed in with a graphical FTP client, differentiating itself by relying on Catalogs and other features present only via Apple’s PowerTalk technology. PowerFTP will face an uphill battle given the low adoption rate of PowerTalk, although it’s good to see something finally using that technology in an interesting way. OpenSoft plans other PowerTalk-based Internet clients, including an email client that, if well-enough done, might even make PowerTalk mail usable for those of us who receive a lot of email.
OpenSoft — <[email protected]> — 800/996-OPEN — 714/650-3696 (fax)
Outland showed off their extremely cool game network, and the best part (aside from the fact that it makes graphical interactive gaming available over the Internet) is that the rates are now $9.95 per month, flat-rate. Outland has a free five hour trial as well, so it’s easy to see if you like playing Spaceward Ho!, Go, Backgammon, Reversi, Chess, Hearts, Galley, and Backstab against other players from all over the Internet. You can get Outland’s software (for use with a MacTCP-based Internet connection) from:
For more information on Outland, send them email at <[email protected]> or check out their Web site at:
Guy Kawasaki’s current project, Emailer, was somewhat hidden at the Bit Jugglers booth. Emailer attempts to bring all your email, whether it be from CompuServe, AOL, eWorld, or the Internet, into a single place. You can have a single set of nicknames and can schedule connections to the different services. Although Emailer doesn’t offer all the features one might want in an "email client that does everything," it may be a compelling product for people who must maintain (and constantly check) email on a variety of services. Emailer isn’t yet available, but we’ll be sure to mention it here when it is.
The World-Wide Web was the hot topic, as one might expect. MacHTTP developer Chuck Shotton’s sessions overflowed their spaces, the Intermediate Internet talk that I, Richard Ford, and Kee Nethery gave didn’t even have standing room, and some folks from Netscape took QuarkXPress files of Apple’s Digital Daily newspaper and turned them into HTML files. Perhaps the strangest Web browser around was one from AllPen <[email protected]> that I never managed to find, but it runs on a Newton. With a larger screen and maybe some color, I could see a Newton being a pretty cool hand-held Web browser.