Lt. Sullivan

Behind the scenes with our savvy rumormonger

Sometimes Sullivan has to do his real job, and with all the late-July brouhaha over Iraq he wasn't able to make the scene with the widget crowd at Object World. He did dispatch a field agent, though, to monitor the proceedings. From his seat in the third row at the conference keynote, Sully's man managed to capture the fireworks on videotape, which he couriered back to Virginia for lab analysis.

While the audience was gasping at the verbal brickbats, the camera captured an extraordinary amount of paper notes being passed around the stage. Halfway through the slugfest, Borland first saxophonist Philippe Kahn scribbled a missive and passed it over to Steve Jobs. Using the agency's best image-enhancement technology, Sully was able to decipher the content: "We should work together." Presumably, Philippe wasn't referring to his jazz band's next gig.

A few moments later, another note was passed up to Steve from an aide offstage. It turned out to be final word that lawyers had finally inked the deal between NeXT and Object Design. The agreement, which allows NeXT to incorporate ODI's object database as a replacement file system for future versions of NeXTSTEP, had been in the works for months. Steve had a slide queued up to announce the agreement, but the negotiations had gone down to the wire. When the note was passed, Steve had the go-ahead to make the announcement.

Regardless of whatever the crisis of the moment may be in September, the Lieutenant has no intention of missing the Seybold show in San Francisco. Besides looking for some flesh on the bones of marquee programs like Pages by Pages Software, Appsoft Image, and Archetype Page, Sullivan is expecting a flood of small but significant announcements.

B┘cchus Software will be unveiling Image Agent, a file-conversion product that works invisibly with any application that accepts drag-and-drop graphic images. Under NeXTSTEP 3.0, apps can then accept all the file formats supported by PixelMagician. Image Agent will be bundled with PixelMagician 1.1.1 at no extra cost but will also be available separately.

Paragon Concepts will be showing an alpha version of their deluxe Nisus word processor. Goldleaf Publishing will show an interface to the Epson ES300C color scanner. HSD is working hard on a 1200-dpi replacement to their popular Scan-X Color scanner as well, and it will also offer a variety of companion utilities to its PowerScan software.

Speaking of HSD, it will supply a disk of foreign-language spell checkers that NeXT will bundle with European systems beginning October 1. Buyers will get English and their choice of one other language for free; additional languages on the disk can be unlocked for $99 each.

On the '486 front, NeXT is getting ready to announce the first big customer for one of its OEM partners. If all goes as expected, it will be the largest installation of NeXTSTEP anywhere.

The seller's market for NeXT developers remains hot. Pencom and Trirex, two of the largest UNIX consulting houses, are hiring whatever talent they can find for consultant commando teams that will work for NeXT on a subcontract basis. Thus, when a NeXT customer needs custom-programming work, the commandos come in under NeXT's label. Other customers are looking for in-house developers, of course, including the infinitely prestigious Mayo Clinic.

As good as it is, it seems that Appsoft Draw has some problems dealing with PostScript images, which can hang the application when saving or printing. The company rushed version 1.01 to fix the problem. Unfortunately, the update causes the cursor to disappear sporadically.

With the spate of 3-D front ends on the way, the demand for a NeXT-specific, full-featured modeling package remains unfulfilled. But not for long. Renaissance Software of Boulder, Colorado, will demonstrate its modeler, code-named Prototype, by year-end. Building on Renaissance's own geometric-modeling engine and NeXT's 3-D tool kit, Prototype will accurately simulate real-world objects. The product also includes a number of innovative interface techniques that will allow nontechnical users to access the power of 3-D.

Sullivan was properly chastised by several readers for his insensitive remark last time out about the inscrutability of a NeXT executive who had recently toured Asia. Thankfully, our top gun was too busy to make it to the Tailhook convention. Sometimes, living in two cultures can be hard to reconcile.

Don't make Sullivan send a U.N. inspection team to sit outside your building for two weeks. Just pass him your information and quietly accept in return the Lt. Sullivan T-shirt signed by Steve Jobs. Call Sully's voice mail at 415/978-3374 or, better yet, send e-mail to sullivan@nextworld.com.