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SCOUG was there!

Copyright 1998-2024, Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG, Warp Expo West, and Warpfest are trademarks of the Southern California OS/2 User Group. OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation. All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.

The Southern California OS/2 User Group

SCOUG OS/2 For You - June 1997

The IBM Technical Interchange
St. Louis, MO, May 11-15

by Rollin White

Each year IBM hosts a week long technical conference (the TI) focusing on key IBM technologies and products. Historically, this was an OS/2 only event. In recent years that focus has changed to include AS/400, RS/6000, and S/390. This year was no different.

The whole event started with a welcome reception on Sunday night. The food was fair, and attendance was pretty good. I ran into several old friends - one of the big reasons I like to attend the TI. The entertainment was a wacky game show. Think of it as Nickelodeon meets Jeopardy meets the Price is Right. A little too "over the top" for my tastes, but a lot of people were into it.

The TI consists of three main parts - the exhibit hall, conference sessions, and the social events. The exhibit hall had a better ratio of OS/2 vendors to non-OS/2 vendors than last year. However, the exhibit hall was much smaller than previous years so there were fewer OS/2 vendors total.

First thing on Monday morning was the Opening Session. This was held in a theater, where the conference attendees waited eagerly to hear what the IBM execs had to say. There were not a lot of suprises. Jeff Mason, General Manager of Solution Developer Marketing and the host of the event was the first speaker. His speech seemed rigid, was low on real content, but rich in marekting lingo.

After Mason was Irving Wladawsky-Berger, General Manager of the IBM Internet Division. I have to give him credit - his speech seemed to be much more thought-out than a typical IBM executive speech. It was also evident that it was from the heart and not from a speech writer. The focus of his speech examined the market forces driving the global move to doing business on the net, such as internationalization, individualized access to information, shortened product life-cycles, and the increase in the at-home work force.

Finally, Steve Mills, General Manager of the IBM Software Solutions Division, gave his talk. Instead of a speech, he used the opportunity to announce a new product called Component Broker. It was a typical IBM product announce that included a good dose of video clips featuring customers singing the praises of the new product. One character on the video couldn't hide the fact that he was reading from a cue card if his life depended on it. The audience got a chuckle out of this.

The bad news was that OS/2 was only mentioned once in the entire opening session and that was in describing the availability of Component Broker (after NT of course).

On Monday night, there was a reception to mark the grand opening of the exhibit hall. This is always the busiest time for a vendor - a time that I enjoy. The reception was from 7:00 to 10:00. During the first two hours I demonstrated our products non-stop. To me it felt like I talked to three people during that time, but others said it was more like 6-10 groups of people. It's sort of a blur to me.

The people that visited our booth that evening were really into it. They wanted to soak up as much information on OS/2 and OS/2 applications as they could - always a good feeling! This was a nice counter balance to the disappointing opening session.

The exhibits were open during the day for the remainder of the week. Traffic was considerably less, but that is normal at a TI. During the week, the sessions become the focus of the attendees. The topics ranged from how to connect your AS/400 to the Internet to how OS/2 stacks up against the competition. Almost all of them were technical in nature and presented by the best IBM has to offer.

Of the several sessions I attended, the best was on NetRexx by Mike Colishaw. For those who don't know, Mike Colishaw is the creator of Rexx, and now NetRexx. There was something awe inspiring about hearing him explain a design problem he faced in NetRexx, and then the elegant solution he came up with. Several people in the back of the room could be heard saying, "He's good. Real good." You can find more about NetRexx at

Also during the entire week, IBM offered free testing for all of their certification programs. In the past I have avoided the certifications (for no particular reason), but this year I decided to see what I could do. The tests were 60-75 minutes long and had about the same number of questions. There were a lot of strange, poorly worded, or unusual questions, but I fared pretty well.

Throughout the week, attendees would browse the exhibit hall. It was interesting to hear the talk from the attendees and the exhibitors alike. Amid all of the excitement, there was a fair amount of skepticism about Java. Some felt that it was just the technology of the day that IBM was interested in (just like Mirrors, PowerPC, Open32, or OpenDoc before) and that IBM's interest wouldn't last. Others questioned whether Java 1.02 or even Java 1.1 was robust enough to write commercial software (and have enough functionality to replace existing Windows and OS/2 software). There was also talk about Bluebird.

BlueBird is the IBM code name for one of their Network Computer (NC) projects. Select people had a preview of Bluebird. The reactions varied from "nothing new" to "It raised the hair on the back of my neck" (in a good way). The disparity of reactions seems to follow the wide range of interest in Java. Bluebird is relevant to OS/2 users because it is based on OS/2. However, when IBM touts it, there is not one mention of OS/2.

Like prior years, IBM/Lotus provided access to the conference schedule, session material, and email through computers connected to a Domino based server. Unfortunately, there were all too often problems with the system. Several prominent OS/2 advocates lectured the Lotus staff about the system's unreliability - running on Windows of course.

On the last evening, I was very pleased to be introduced to Mr. Kohichi Yoshinaga. In Japan, they also have a Technical Interchange. Mr. Yoshinaga was personally responsible for making sure the name in Japan was IBM OS/2 Technical Interchange. As my friend Marty Cawthon said, some people at IBM say they are committed, others show they are committed.

I was unable to attend the closing session, but the focus was on the coming era of the Network Computer. Several friends who attended noted how different the visions of the IBM and Lotus speakers were - despite the fact that they are the same company. Happily, Mike Lawrie, General Manager, IBM Personal Software Products Division, mentioned OS/2 a lot in the closing session, even if Jeff Papows, the president of Lotus, didn't.

The TI is a long and tiring week. In some regards it is similar to Comdex, but because you are absorbing technical information rather than marketing information, you are exhausted in a different way. This year's TI was no exception. It was a changing mix of good and bad vibes about OS/2. I look forward to next year's TI in Orlando.

The Southern California OS/2 User Group
P.O. Box 26904
Santa Ana, CA 92799-6904, USA

Copyright 1997 the Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG is a trademark of the Southern California OS/2 User Group.
OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation.
All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.