Shows in the US and UK may be small and focussed, but SMAU in Milan throws it all in. The death of the monolithic, all-encompassing, overwhelming and all but impenetrable trade show may have been widely predicted in the US and the UK, but in continental Europe events such as Cebit in Hannover and Sicob […]
Shows in the US and UK may be small and focussed, but SMAU in Milan throws it all in.
The death of the monolithic, all-encompassing, overwhelming and all but impenetrable trade show may have been widely predicted in the US and the UK, but in continental Europe events such as Cebit in Hannover and Sicob in Paris seem to roll on forever, leaving in their wake thousands of exhausted exhibitors and visitors – and journalists. Each year, similar hordes of visitors – a claimed 155,000 in 1988 – converge on Milan’s central trade fair for Smau, a suitably sized – over 800 exhibitors – national information technology jamboree featuring everything from superminis to paper for facsimile machines, wide area networks to portable telephones. Prospective visitors quailing at the thought may at least take heart from the the fact that compared with the intensely oppressive atmosphere of most comparably sized shows, Smau has its advantages: the move to an early October date means that the temperature is tolerable, and the setting in a dozen buildings instead of the more usual giant concrete bunker provides visitors with more time to sun themselves at the open air cafes dotted around the fair. Most of the heat and light at the show was generated by non-Unix products, but there was also a fair sprinkling of Unix hardware and software, most of which however was USsourced and already seen elsewhere. Lack of central Government support has been regarded as a factor in limiting the growth of the Italian Unix market to date, although there has been a fair number of cases where Unix has been specified for individual contracts. At local government level and in the small business sector the picture has been somewhat brighter, but the market size is still reckoned to lag far behind Germany, the UK and France.
Olivetti enhances its Unix line
Olivetti and its Unix product line seemed to attract a degree of malicious gossip as is usually the case with a dominant national vendor:; nevertheless Unix was much in evidence at Olivetti’s Smau stands, and not only among the computer products; Unix was also a component of PABX and other communications products on show. Chief Unix announcements were an overhaul of the LSX line, with seven new models following a 30X5 nomenclature as opposed to the 30X0 of the original systems (CI No 1,285); broadly similar to the original line, the 30X5 range stretches from models based on the 68020 and 68030 to the high-end 3075 and 3085; the latter are due to ship next January, and are single and dual processors, said to deliver 5 and 9 MIPS respectively, based on technology from Phoenix manufacturer Edgecore, itself now owned by Arix Corp. The addition of the new products brings the LSX line to eleven models in total; some will be phased out next year as the new systems come on stream. Also finally announced, and due to be rolled out in localised versions elsewhere in Europe and worldwide, was the Integrated Business and Information System, Unix-based office software for the LSX line. Talked about by Olivetti since not long after the launch of the LSX line two years ago and previewed at Smau last year, IBIS is designed to provide highly configurable foundation and uniform interface for networks of LSX Unix servers and MS-DOS micros, integrating MS-DOS applications and other Unix software such as Oracle. IBIS modules include X-Manager for controlling access to, managing and passing information between applications; others include word processing, file management, mail, print management, notepad and system administration tools.
Bull happily does its parent’s bidding
Bull HN’s Italian operation – Honeywell Italia until recently is not your average country subsidiary; it was responsible for the development of several Honeywell systems including X-Superteam, the first generation Honeywell Unix line, and subsequently several of the development team were recruited into X3S – now known as the XS Division – the effort based in Massy near Paris to develop a new common line of Unix systems to succeed the disparate Bull and Honeywe
ll ranges. The highly integrated and modular DPX/2 200 and 300 (CI No 1,279), on show at Smau, are the first models in this new line, which will later expand to embrace products based on the MIPS RISC processors. The entry-level DPX/2 200 is based on 25MHz 68030 with up to 16Mb memory, while the DPX/2 300 will support up to four 33MHz 68030 processors – when Bull gets the symmetrical multiprocessing version of Unix System V.3.1 to market, which it hopes to do early next year. Bull has been strong in local government and has also been reasonably successful in the very large Italian small business sector: it reckons it sold around 1,000 Unix systems in 1988. There has also been some interest from other Government departments – customers include the Carabinieri branch of the police – and Bull is likely to step up its efforts to use its considerable local software resources to develop the specialised applications needed for large Government contracts. The parent’s influence was evident in the DPX/2s connected to Bull SA’s CP-8 Smart Card systems, and the firm noted that at least one of Italy’s many banks is considering Unix-based branch systems.
Delphi takes on Acorn’s RISC family
On the technical side, much of the action as usual centered on the Sun Microsystems stand where the company played host to numerous resellers and OEM customers including Prime Computer and previous sole distributor Delphi SpA – which also announced a deal to distribute Acorn’s RISC workstations, (Acorn’s 80% owner Olivetti has a sizable minority stake in Delphi). Sun, which like the Italian subsidiaries of several other manufacturers also handles Jugoslavia, Greece, Turkey and the Middle East from its 50-strong Italian operation, boasts an installed base of 2,000 systems including over 400 Sparc machines. It claimed that all but 400 of the systems had been installed since the Italian subsidiary was set up in mid-1988. Sun’s Italian sales organisation reflects its perception of the market: a reliance on many small resellers, often companies importing US software to resell with workstations, rather than the emphasis on large OEM customers seen in some other countries. Sun also sells direct and, feeling that the 80386-based 386i may be straightforward enough to be handled by personal computer dealers, is trying to establish a dealer net for the low end station. – Mike Faden