Battle of the OSes at Expo

The ability to get hands-on with Microsoft's debuting Office XP suite and a variety of new Linux-based applications will be a major drawcard for IT managers at this year's Computerworld Expo.

The ability to get hands-on with Microsoft’s debuting Office XP suite and a variety of new Linux-based applications will be a major drawcard for IT managers at this year’s Computerworld Expo.

Expo will see the first public preview in New Zealand of Office XP. Microsoft marketing spokesman Alex Morcom says the preview will guide prospective customers through the top new features in all the major applications, and provide a general overview of the product. Office XP will be available in stores from May 31.

On a different tack are a series of seminars and a number of exhibitors demonstrating business applications of the open-source Linux operating system. Presenters are expected to argue that Linux is rapidly coming of age, and that it is now entirely possible to base the operations of an entire business on essentially free software.

Compaq, IBM and Auckland Linux consultants Asterisk will demonstrate software built on the OS, and one popular event — amongst some perhaps — is likely to be the Expo “Geek Bowl” Linux minutiae quiz. Asterisk general manager Chris Hegan says his firm believes that Linux, being both novel and relatively complex, has not been properly recognised in the business market. He says that Linux has many advantages, not the least of which is its stability. “Small to medium[-sized] businesses don’t want to be distracted by their technology. With Linux you never need to ‘tweak’ your server,” says Mr Hegan.

One local success story amongst the other exhibitors is Marshal Software, specialists since 1994 in digital encryption and internet content security technology. It exports to 22 countries worldwide, and the company claims its products are found in more than half of this country’s top 40 blue-chip companies and organisations.

Marshal Software won the TradeNZ 2000 Export Awards e-commerce innovation prize and was Computerworld’s technology innovator of the year in 1999.

One major project for the company is the development of the New Zealand government’s Secure Electronic Environment email security policy. Marshal expect to be able to export the SEE technology following the local trial.

New Zealand’s size is advantageous for testing software, says Marshal’s marketing manager Skip Dostine. “We are compact enough so that we can develop, implement and enforce secure email standards on all branches of the government,” he says.

“We have taken a somewhat diverse set of users and organisations [within the New Zealand government] and implemented standards to ensure compatibility. With our relatively low numbers, we can prove the concept and then scale the solution to the outside world,” says Dostine.

Visitors to web design firm Straker Interactive’s stand, meanwhile, can go into a draw to be one of the first walkers over Auckland’s harbour bridge.

  • Computerworld Expo will be held from May 8-10, hosted in the Carter Holt Harvey pavilion in the New Zealand Expo Centre in Auckland’s Greenlane. Tuesday and Wednesday will be primarily for large businesses, while the Thursday is focused more towards small to medium-sized business people and tertiary students.

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