NeXTWORLD February/March 1993

 

NeXTSTEP, German-style

By Eliot Bergson

Germany has been exporting graphics technology since Gutenberg, so it wasn’t surprising that two of the most innovative publishing applications in NeXT’s Seybold booth last September came from German developers. The message was clear in any language: NeXT users should get ready for a little schlag with their kaffee.

German developers are helping NeXT push its publishing message through what Peter Lipps, with NeXT’s Munich office, calls "The Hamburg Connection," referring to programmers who trade information and ideas in tat center of German publishing. Unter Ecker Software and 3K Computerbild demonstrated innovative photo-compositing and image-manipulation apps at Seybold. Federico Heinz has developed Dots, for PostScript-printer connectivity; tms Software is shipping 1VISION, a modular solution for multimedia and traditional publishing; YumYum Software has added a FrameMaker interface to its VarioData database for simplified database publishing; Opto-Tech is offering high-end repro-scanner hardware and software, and ProficomP is working on Gallery, an entrant in the nascent NeXT video market.

This should come as no surprise. Germany is a wealthy country with upscale consumers, a long history of technical advances, and an entrenched personal computer platform that no longer meets the needs of developers. And as Atari goes the way of the Berlin Wall, German programmers are switching to NeXT in large numbers.

"There are at least 200 registered developers here," Lipps says, more than 50 of which have commercial products. "There are some very interesting programs coming in the near future," he adds.

As part of an electronic media-art lab at the huge Documenta Art Show in Kassel this fall, a multimedia workgroup used a NeXTdimension running DSP-modem software from i· link as part of an interactive television exhibit. As many as 40,000 people an hour tried to call and get on the program, which was carried by Germany’s 3SAT network. In Karlsruhe’s football stadium, a 30-foot video screen run by NeXT software displays graphics and player photos. And in Hamburg itself, Digital Collections, a NeXT VAR, has put together a hypermedia information-retrieval system for broadcasting and publishing companies.

This wave of excitement follows a sour experience with Atari, by far the largest installed PC system in Germany, with Germany in turn the largest Atari base in the world. Atari positioned itself as a professional, affordable PC (IBM, Macintosh, and UNIX machines are very expensive in Europe), allowing developers to introduce marketable products. But Atari never competed aggressively for office and publishing desktops in the global market, and German developers were left with only limited sales and programming challenges. Insularity bred contempt.

"Because Atari became so bad, German developers took a big leap to NeXT as the only real professional market in Europe," says Wilfried Beeck, president of d’Art Computersysteme GmbH, a Hamburg-based software developer and one of the two authorized German NeXT distributors.

As excited as these developers are about following the lead of the European Community and competing on the continent, they are also watching the ripe U.S. market for sales and success. But that isn’t so easy. "I have ten distributors in Europe," says Unter Ecker’s Oliver Ecker. "I can’t find a single one in the States." Beeck says that there is lots of "interesting development" in Europe, but U.S. users don’t hear about it.

The developer’s challenge now is to put the Atari experience behind them and get the word out about German NeXT software. With a little luck, the innovative programming touches and language support will turn American heads toward Europe for both collaboration and sales.

"We Germans like to pioneer," says Oliver Ecker. "But pioneers can get lonely."

 

 

Cowboy Capitalist in Moscow

By Clair Whitmer and Sally Chew

Vladimir Bobrov was dumbstruck by the NeXT demonstration he saw at the CeBIT show in Hamburg early last year. "It was so amazing I lost my English for a few minutes," recalls Bobrov, who immediately vowed to get the technology into the offices of his employer: the Russian government.

Later at CeBIT, he and his boss, Vasily Kupriyanovsky, chairman of the Russian Council of Ministers’ Bureau for Information Support, would sit down with a controversial American developer named Steve Sarich and make some bit, if precarious, plans.

The trio, along with the Association of NeXTSTEP Developers International (ANDI), eventually convinced NeXT Germany to donate a NeXT machine to Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s government; Sarich, president of Houston-based Talus Imaging, helped set a key project in motion at the Electronic and Computer Science Center (ECSC), operating out of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, with the donation of two more NeXTs ; and finally, in October, Sarich signed a deal with NeXT, making Talus the platform’s first official distributor for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Lithuania.

Doubts quickly surfaced, however. Yeltsin had received no computer six months after the agreement was signed, and there were questions about the status of the two ECSC machines. An acrimonious dispute broke out among ANDI board members. Russia’s new private sector would be hard enough to crack without unnecessary delays on the American side, the Talus president’s critic argued. For his part, Sarich blamed the holdup on U.S. Commerce Department restrictions, which he expected to be resolved soon.

It may be, however, that Sarich still holds the original trump card: the promise of the country’s highest-profile showcase, the Kremlin itself. The distributorship negotiations with NeXT were opened at least in part because of a 2000 user request for proposal to Sarich from Kupriyanovsky’s office. And the American’s chances at winning access to the government market have been improved by the Cyrillic-alphabet interface with keycap support and specialized font library he’s introducing, the first of their kind on the NeXT.

Meanwhile, Sarich’s newfound authority with NeXT gives him an edge. The new Cyrillic interfact – and Sarich’s ability to offer warranties and support under his new NeXT contract – will disadvantage his main competitor in the CIS: Russian businessman Sergei Morozov (see "Technology Czar," NeXTWORLD, Summer 1992).

Morozov was Russia’s first NeXT fan. By the time Bobrov was stammering in Hamburg and Sarich was trying to craft a deal with NeXT, Morozov had founded the Moscow NeXT User Group; purchased and imported two NeXTcubes and two NeXTdimensions; attended NeXTWORLD Expo in San Francisco; and, using profits from his business as a Phillips peripherals distributor, set up his Nauka-Service office as the first NeXT showroom in Russia. Morozov and partner Vladimir Sevrioukov have apparently already made sales to the Moscow office of British firm Laser Thesaurus, the music-studio equipment company EREM, and Commersant, the English-language weekly business magazine. Because NeXT technology currently requires U.S. Department of Commerce export licenses, however, the two operate on unsteady ground. They’re cagey about how they’re actually getting their computers, saying only that they’re working with an unnamed American company and insisting that the machines are imported legally – all the while telling how badly they wish NeXT would sign them up as distributors.

Only the Talus president has the official go-ahead from NeXT, though. And go ahead Sarich will. Among his favorite projects outside the Kremlin is a NeXT software-development training center he’s proposing as part of an International Science and Technology Center. The multinational program will be aimed at keeping former Soviet military scientists from taking jobs in hostile countries.

The ECSC project has already taken off. Within three months of receiving Sarich’s donated NeXTs, ECSC director Oleg Batsukov and his team had ported their pVisor molecular-visualization program – the first NeXT program coming out of the CIS. Now the software is in beta testing in the United States and Germany.

Batsukov is optimistic about the future, promising that "in two years, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology will be known all over the world." As cowboy capitalism comes in Russia, it seems that NeXT will play a role in shaping that future.

 

 

Approaches for Programmers

Your most productive database application will be the one you build yourself. You’ll have full access to the entire NeXTSTEP environment – unlike working on another platform with a 4GL, a high-level language designed for databases but which restricts access to the rest of your computer. NeXT’s DBKit provides three essential ingredients: adapters that link the DBKit to external server; an access layer that presents a uniform application programming interface (API) for all adapters, allowing programmers to maintain portability of applications among servers from various vendors; and a palette of Interface Builder objects; such as a database file viewer and an image-displaying object. Although you’ll likely write to the access layer API, you’ll probably supplement NeXT’s own DBKit palette with objects from third-party vendors or develop your own interface objects.

Frontier’s DBKit Companion Objects and spreadsheet matrices from Black Market Technologies are examples of third-party objects that can be used for database-application development in Interface Builder, though you’ll use plenty of your own Objective-C in your application. Alternatively, if you know SQL but aren’t comfortable with a lot of C, check out Professional Software’s Objective DB Toolkit. It’s a C-free substitute for NeXT’s DBKit for the experience SQL programmer.

If you’ve caught the object-oriented bug, VNP Software’s AccessKit layers on top of NeXT’s DBKit, mapping the traits of your own Objective-C classes directly to relational-database columns and tables. The product lets you build object-oriented applications directly on top of an existing RDBMS. Or you may want to start developing applications based on ODBMS technology from Versant Object Technology, Object Design, BKS Software, or Persistent Data Systems (NeXTWORLD will cover ODBMS development in a future issue).

Whatever your approach, you’ll get there faster with NeXTSTEP.

 

 

Sleeping with the Enemy

By Simson L. Garfinkel

Steve Jobs had it all wrong.

At NeXTWORLD Expo last year, Jobs told a rapt audience that Sun Microsystems was NeXT’s "mother of all competitors." Jobs told us how NeXT was making Sun feel the heat and boasted that whenever Sun and NeXT went head to head, Sun lost the sale.

But with NeXTSTEP 3.0 running faster on a Dell ‘486 than it runs on a NeXTstation Turbo Color, and with Jobs saying that NeXT Computer is "an operating-systems company that makes great reference hardware," it’s time for NeXT to wake up and realize that its competition isn’t in Mountain View or Cupertino, California, but in Redmond, Washington.

The choice these days isn’t between NeXTSTEP and Solaris 2.0. It’s between NeXTSTEP and Windows NT. And while NeXT has the superior technology, Microsoft has superior marketing, marketing, and marketing.

Most NeXTSTEP developers expect to see NeXT’s installed base triple in 1993. Companies like Lighthouse Design and Stone Design anticipate that between 50 percent and 90 percent of their sales next year will be to users running NeXTSTEP on Intel-based machines.

But history tells us that competing against Microsoft with superior technology isn’t enough. If it was, Digital Research’s DR-DOS would be outselling MS-DOS in the PC world. But last year, despite the fact that it is better, faster, and smaller, DR-DOS garnered just 9.7 percent of the DOS market.

In competing with NT< NeXT with emphasize the economic advantages of NeXTSTEP: It’s faster, and therefore cheaper, to develop custom applications with NeXTSTEP than any other operating environment. The problem with this message is that if NeXT charges $995 for NeXTSTEP ‘486, the money that companies save by developing with NeXTSTEP will evaporate when the applications are fielded.

NeXT knows this. Unfortunately, NeXT can’t charge $195 for NeXTSTEP without renegotiating its license fees for PostScript, Pantone, and UNIX. Nevertheless, expect to see NeXTSTEP ‘486 for less than $500 soon after the product’s introduction.

That may not be cheap enough – especially when the cost of purchasing a new ‘486 box is factored into the equation. Companies that develop custom applications for Windows can field them on ‘386 boxes.

The port of Altsys Virtuoso to Sun’s Open Windows demonstrates that it is possible to develop a program on NeXTSTEP and then transport it to another environment. Bad news for NeXT: Ports to Microsoft Windows are part of the business plan for both Pages by Pages and Archetype Page. Similar ports are under active consideration at companies like Adamation and Athena Design.

NeXT can’t stop those ports from happening, but it could pick up $50 per end user by developing its own porting kit and licensing that kit to developers. Such a kit would consist of the NeXTSTEP AppKit and an embedded Display PostScript server. NeXTSTEP programs wouldn’t run as well under Windows NT as they run on NeXTSTEP – there would be no live links, no workspace, no drag and drop, no Digital Librarian, only limited cut and paste between applications – the applications would run.

Companies would then upgrade to full NeXTSTEP when they needed total integration, e-mail, and other offerings.

 

 

Cause and Effect

By Dan Lavin

Back when Ross Perot first met Stove Jobs at a party, the Texas billionaire wasn’t as famous as he would later become, but he was just as frugal and conservative. It’s hard to imagine that Steve – with the pinstripe suit he doesn’t own and the haircut he doesn't have – matched Perot’s idea of a prospective business partner. Yet Perot was so impressed he invested millions of dollars in NeXT.

Dr. Keizo Yamaji, the worldwide head of Canon, is treated as a demi-god in Japan. Yet he flew to California for the sole purpose of introducing Steve’s NeXTWORLD Expo keynote.

These reactions are far from unique. Conservative Wall Street businessmen, world leaders, and Japanese tycoons all trip over themselves to be near Steve Jobs and respond to his requests. Why?

It’s not as simple as wealth. By the standards of the super-rich, Steve isn’t. Without his not-so-terribly-liquid stakes in NeXT and Pixar, his net worth is probably less than $100 million, well below the cutoff for inclusion in this year’s Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans.

It can’t just be that he has interesting things to say. Industry leaders like Philippe Kahn and Jim Manzi have lots to say, but they are not the object of hero worship. It can’t be that he did something really important eight years ago; his former sidekick Steve Wozniak is greeted with curiosity but not the same awe. Charisma may be part of the equation, but is it enough to explain why jaded luminaries act like they’re at fantasy baseball camp when they’re around Steve?

No. Steve’s stature and reputation stem from being both a man of vision and a man of action. He not only wants to change the world, he puts his time and money where his mouth is.

Look a the latest round of financing for NeXT. Canon provided a $55 million line of credit, and Steve provided an additional $10 million for the same purpose. This is a promise of cash if needed (which it probably will). It comes on top of the $30 million or more in hard currency that Steve has already ponied up to start NeXT and keep it running.

Beyond the money, Steve’s commitment to the cause shows up in the long working hours he puts in at NeXT. Most of us in his position might simply invest the money to throw off $10 million a year in interest. Given Steve’s lifestyle, that’s a tremendous amount of money, something like a million plain, black turtlenecks from The Gap. He wouldn’t have to deal with the aggravation of running a company and answering to the press. No grueling rounds of keynote speeches. No glad handling of potential customers. No suffering of earnest questioners who rush the front of the room.

What if he had just sat back and kept his Apple stock? Steve had about five million shares of Apple stock when he left in 1985. He sold it for about $130 million. That same stock, after a split, would be worth about four times as much this year, as much as $630 million. Even if he had sold the stock, he could have participated in much more boring and lucrative investments than Pixar and NeXT.

Instead, he’s out there not only working every day but reaching into his pocket to further the cause. That’s why Ross Perot bought a big chunk of the company and sat on its board until his presidential bid loomed. That’s why Dr. Yamaji flew across the ocean and then flew right back. That’s why everyone takes Steve’s calls. And that’s why people still believe in Steve Jobs.