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Adam Engst No comments

Lotus Renegotiates

Earlier this year the Lotus/Novell merger received headline attention, and the merger would have made Lotus the largest microcomputer software company (even larger than Microsoft!). The deal didn’t happen because of cold feet on the part of Novell’s stockholders and some speculated greediness on the part of Novell’s CEO, who wanted a better position within Lotus after the merger.

But whatever the reasons behind the split between Lotus and Novell, Lotus has decided to go after Microsoft in another way – by buying Samna Corp., a company that produces word processors for the Windows environment. Samna’s Ami and Ami Professional have compared favorably with Word for Windows in recent reviews.

This move by Lotus looks like it has a far better chance of succeeding than the Novell merger. Samna, relatively small company, could use the clout behind the Lotus name to win market share from Word for Windows. Lotus could use a Windows word processor to compete with Microsoft’s Windows’ versions of Word and Excel, a popular software duo. The combination of Samna’s word processors and Lotus’s version of 1-2-3 for Windows should offer a competitive combination to compete with Microsoft’s products.

The catch? Yes there’s always a catch. Even before Lotus and Novell were talking to each other, Lotus and WordPerfect had agreed to develop 1-2-3 and WordPerfect so that the programs would have similar interfaces under Presentation Manager (OS/2’s graphical interface). It isn’t clear what WordPerfect will do now that Lotus has essentially abandoned it in the graphical interface wars. Perhaps having WordPerfect as an ally was not as useful to Lotus as having its own weapons.

How will this affect the Macintosh market? As usual it’s unclear. Lotus has little or no say in the Macintosh market (though we’d love to see Improv for the Mac), WordPerfect isn’t particularly powerful (but wait for WordPerfect 2.0), and none of Samna’s products work on the Mac at all. Nevertheless, a Lotus-Samna joint venture might prevent Microsoft from overly dominating the entire microcomputer software world, and that’s a positive aspect of the merger. If too much of the popular software comes under the control of too few monolithic companies, we feel that the innovation often brought to market by the little companies will be discouraged. Unfortunately it takes a giant to slow down another giant – we hope that innovative software can still slip under the giants’ notice.

Information from:
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor

Related articles:
InfoWorld — 05-Nov-90, Vol. 12, #45, pg. 1
PC WEEK — 05-Nov-90, Vol. 7, #44, pg. 1

Adam Engst No comments

HyperCard Bits & Pieces

Apple’s decision to transfer HyperCard to Claris may or may not have been the best choice, but it has fostered confusion about who gets what where why and how. Got that? Good.

Here’s the deal. A stripped-down version of the HyperCard distribution comes with every Mac. By stripped-down I mean that you don’t get much with it – HyperCard itself, Home, and an Address and Phone stack. The HyperCard program is fully functional, but has been temporarily limited to the lower user levels. It’s easy to get back to the scripting level, though, just type "set userLevel to 5" in the message box, then add that same line to the "on startUp" handler in the stack script. Other suggestions have circulated recently, though I tried the rumored technique of typing MAGIC in the message box, and it didn’t work at all. If you don’t know about stack scripts, startUp handlers, and the like, don’t worry about it, it’s not a big deal.

If you’re a serious HyperCard programmer, you’ll probably want the full Claris distribution of HyperCard (which I presume does not come set to userLevel 2). The Claris version is more extensive and comes on four disks. Goodies include items such as manuals, a HyperTalk Reference stack, and a Power Tools stack. I haven’t seen the entire thing yet, but the tools are welcome. Most were available previously from shareware or public domain sources, but it’s nice to have them provided from day one. It’s $49 from Claris and you can order your very own copy by calling 800/628-2100 (at least in the U.S. – no international number was given, sorry). Operators are standing by. 🙂

Once you’ve got HyperCard and the stacks and manuals, you may wish to purchase one of the voluminous manuals that seem to go so well with HyperCard. Danny Goodman has updated his "The Complete HyperCard Handbook" and the general consensus on Usenet says that it is still good for someone who is just learning HyperCard but isn’t a very good reference manual. More for the serious user is Dan Winkler and Scot Kamins’s "HyperCard 2.0, The Book," which is supposedly the final word on the subject. Other books exist too, but I haven’t heard much about them yet. Sooner or later I’ll make it to the bookstore to check these things out, but time is dear these days.

Some final information that Kevin Calhoun kindly posted and which I thought would be useful is what version of HyperCard gets along with which version of the system. Kevin posted a nice chart of the possibilities, but it boils down to the following. Use HyperCard 1.2.2 only with System 6.0.3. Use HyperCard 1.2.5 only with System 6.0.4 or 6.0.5. Use HyperCard 2.0 only with System 6.0.5 or 6.0.7. Experience has shown that 2.0 will not run with system software lower than 6.0.5, but the consequences for disobeying the rest of the rules are unclear because for months now, one of us ran 1.2.2 under System 6.0.5 and the other ran 1.2.5 under 6.0.3 with no apparent problems. Probably causes tooth decay or something, though neither of us have any cavities yet.

Claris — 800/628-2100

Information from:
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor
Tonya Byard — TidBITS Editor
Kevin Calhoun — [email protected]

Adam Engst No comments

Night of the Living Clones

It’s starting to sound like one of those horror movies where it turns out that everyone you know has been taken over by pods from outer space. I think that’s the case a lot of the time – it explains many of the people I know quite well. I’m talking, of course, about the proliferation of computers that can emulate other computers. In particular, there have been a number of interesting Macintosh clone announcements. The last one we reported on, created by, Abacus Research and Development Inc. (ARDI), was still working on software and hadn’t mentioned anything about PC-compatibility either. This announcement is from a similarly-named company, Research, Development, & Innovations (RDI), which says that it plans to display at Comdex an 8.5 pound, battery powered, SPARC-based (the chip set that runs the Sun workstations) laptop that can run all Sun, Macintosh, and PC software.

The president of RDI, Rick Schrameck, says the BriteLite laptop will run Mac software faster than an SE and PC software faster than a 286. Neither speed is amazing, but both are respectable considering that there aren’t any 8.5 pound Macintosh-compatible portables that are any faster and few PC-clone laptops are much faster than 286’s either. Of course, such functionality doesn’t come cheap; the BriteLite will list for between $7000 and $12000 and will ship in December.

I didn’t hear what came with the laptop in terms of disk drives and monitors and external ports and all that jazz, but I’d expect a large hard disk since Suns usually require a lot of storage just for the Unix operating system (to give you an approximation, A/UX comes on an 80 MB hard disk if you buy the hard disk version, though that includes the man pages, so you wouldn’t need to port all that around to meetings – at least I hope not). Suns almost always have large monitors as well, so I would expect that the monitor would have a fine resolution to fit more dots on the screen at once, though readability becomes an issue quickly with laptops of any breed. It must have a port for a mouse or trackball if it is to run Macintosh software, and it wouldn’t be surprising if it had an external monitor port as well to drive a real monitor. Given a large enough hard disk, a floppy drive could be external without causing undue hassle. And all in 8.5 pounds. I wonder how they do it.

I’m sure that Apple isn’t happy about the announcement, but they never are, so that’s not surprising. It will be interesting to hear how RDI has managed to emulate the Mac. They might have licensed ROMlib from ARDI since that ran on Sun workstations and was coming along quite well, although it was a ways from running "all" Macintosh software as RDI claims. If anyone goes to Comdex and can get more information on RDI and the BriteLite, we’d appreciate hearing more of the details and receiving contact information. As usual, you know where to find us.

Information from:
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor
Wayne Folta — [email protected]

Related articles:
Wall Street Journal — 07-Nov-90