Column: Country and western silenced during IBM talkfest

As I write this column I am recovering from a case of jetlag, brought on by a tiresome return journey from Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville was the venue - no, not of a country and western hoedown - but of IBM's annual Technical Interchange, at which I was a guest of IBM New Zealand.

The Technical Interchange enables IBM and its developers, business partners and resellers to get together to talk about the latest advances in information technology.

The event attracted well over 3000 attendees, who divided their time between more than 300 elective sessions, made up of various tutorials and hands-on computer labs.

We were given first looks at the new OS/2 - code-named Merlin (after a bird of prey, not King Arthur's sidekick) and Lotus Word Pro for OS/2.

OS/2 users (and I know there are a fair number of you out there) better not start holding their breath in the hope for Lotus' SmartSuite 96 for OS/2. Originally set for release mid-year, Lotus has only been able to announce the release of beta versions of Word Pro and Freelance Graphics within that timeframe.

Word Pro showcase

At a special session for Lotus, the IBM subsidiary showcased Word Pro 96 for OS/2, which finally reached customer beta testing in April. At the same time, it took the opportunity to announce the expected release schedules for other applications designed to complete SmartSuite 96 for OS/2, which will make use of the same feature set incorporated in SmartSuite 96 for Windows 95.

While the shipping date for Word Pro has not been finalised, Lotus says it will be available mid-year. The OS/2 version of SmartSuite will be available by September, though new versions of three of the suite's five applications won't be ready until year end.

The suite will initially ship with existing versions of Lotus 1-2-3, the Approach database and the Organiser personal information manager, plus the new releases of Word Pro and Freelance Graphics. The new versions of the applications will automatically be sent out to registered buyers of SmartSuite 96.

Ice-cream wars

Local IBM staff were pleased with the response garnered by its Warp ice-cream give-away at last month's Computerworld Expo in Auckland.

On one of my visits to the Big Blue stand, I was curious to see several Microsoft staff members conversing closely with the IBMers - apparently this was not the first time this had happened.

With the thought of a juicy story about defections in the ranks on my mind, I inquired as to what was going on.

I walked away thoroughly disappointed after being informed that the Microsoft staffers were only trying to find out when the next batch of Warp ice-creams would appear.

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