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By the time you read this, Microsoft’s launch of its Office 97 product group will be well underway. It’s estimated that Microsoft will spend up to 14 million dollars on promotions to ensure that, literally, the Word—as well as its other component products—gets out. In looking at the numbers, one industry analyst quipped that this promotional expense will make Microsoft Office the second largest software company in the world. Right after Microsoft itself, of course!

In many respects, Microsoft deserves the success. Products such as Windows, Word, Excel, SNA Server, and others deliver high-quality solutions that have come to define today’s desktop and client/server computing environment. How did this happen? Well, in areas where there were no applications, Microsoft provided tools to enable third-party developers to follow their dreams. Those tools included the operating systems, enhancements such as DDE and OLE, and even the essential compilers such as Visual Basic and C++. Then, as the success of those developers grew, Microsoft quickly entered into the newly created market niches with competitive products and promotional giveaways to gobble up the very customers who had been nurtured by Microsoft’s own developers. That’s how we received the Internet Explorer and a host of other applications. In other words, Microsoft has created an environment for productivity, fostered its legions of developers, and then harvested the fruits of everyone’s labor. Not a bad strategy, if you think about it. In fact, it’s the same strategy employed for years by IBM on the AS/400.

Of course, if you’re a fan of Microsoft products, there’s a natural temptation to focus solely upon the MS party line. (And when Microsoft throws a party, they really know how to do it!) On the other hand, if you’re a fan of the AS/400, there’s a similar inclination to view the MS products with suspicion. (This is sometimes referred to as the “Prince of Darkness” complex.) This creates a real conflict for those of us who are building solutions for our organizations. Should we standardize on MS or should we hold out for IBM? Should we narrow our focus to a particular platform and dismiss anything

outside that realm? What is the role of Client Access/400 in Microsoft’s new crazy, iconoclastic environment?

The answers to these questions can be found only within our own organizations. The realities of our workplaces aren’t tied up with the giga-cultures of IBM or Microsoft, but the new competition fostered by Microsoft has created a lot of new opportunities in the AS/400 realm—especially in the areas supported by Client Access/400. First of all, this competition is making Rochester provide solutions that allow us to integrate the AS/400 with a far wider range of applications. For example, in this issue, we’ll show you how to build a SNADS-to-SMTP bridge that will let you send email directly to users running Microsoft Exchange or any SMTP/MIME-based mail system. Second, it’s making it easier for our users to get to the data stored on the AS/400. In this issue, you’ll find a pair of articles about SNA gateways and how they can be used in your environment. Finally, the new competition Microsoft has fostered is forcing us to rethink our dependency on any proprietary solution and also forcing us to deal with the loss of support for certain products as the software industry evolves. For instance, OS/2 is still a supremely excellent OS, still growing and maturing in our businesses. Nevertheless, the task of finding new support for this platform becomes harder as Microsoft continues to dominate the desktop. For this reason, we’ve included a hands-on article on VREXX, designed to add a new arsenal of tools to your OS/2 REXX applications.

Will Office 97 be a success for Microsoft? Who really cares?! With a 14- million-dollar head of promotional steam behind it, nobody in MIS going to stand in the way! So just keep those tools coming, Bill, and we’ll use them if we need them! That means any tool! Anything that makes the AS/400 work more efficiently provides another opportunity for Client Access/400 experts to be successful.

Thomas Stockwell

Thomas M. Stockwell is an independent IT analyst and writer. He is the former Editor in Chief of MC Press Online and Midrange Computing magazine and has over 20 years of experience as a programmer, systems engineer, IT director, industry analyst, author, speaker, consultant, and editor.  


Tom works from his home in the Napa Valley in California. He can be reached at ITincendiary.com.





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