Manifest Destiny: User Group News

Few NeXT diehards will forget where they were on February 9, Black Tuesday, when they heard of the demise of black hardware. They certainly won't forget in Australia, home of OzNeXT, since these antipodal NeXT advocates had been pleading with Canon to bring NeXT hard- ware to Australia for nearly three years. And they did: The very next day, Canon and Data General announced marketing and support for NeXT workstations in Australia and New Zealand.

It seems that more than just the international date line separates Australia from the United States. As OzNeXT Vice President Aris Theochar- ides puts it, "Our members realize we are out here all alone, with practically no direct help from NeXT." Working with NEXTSTEP has become a matter of taking destiny into their own hands.

Australia's isolation made proprietary NeXT hardware a problematic choice, but Dave Thomas, leader of the Sydney OzNeXT chapter and principal of Softpac, the country's leading NEXTSTEP dealer, says the Intel version could be a promising contender. "Australian users are used to being 11,000 miles from the closest support so we're very much in favor of open systems."

Thomas also points out that Australia is a world leader in UNIX seats per capita, having an even higher number than the United States. He ought to know, because Softpac has been advocating UNIX since 1975 and Oracle databases since 1984. Comparing that to his missionary work for NEXTSTEP, a $165,000 investment in seminars and marketing in the last year alone, he says, "People thought I was bananas then, too!"

Educational users in Australia were early adopters of NEXTSTEP. Nicole Kaiyan, a researcher at the Swinburne University of Technology, is working on next-generation virtual environments on her Cube. The music department at La Trobe University is using NeXTcubes as IRCAM signal-processing workstations. Theocharides is based at Monash University.

Another leading light of the Australian user community is Xedoc, the NEXTSTEP development house noted for its ports of NetInfo to other platforms (see "From Down Under to Everywhere," NeXTWORLD, November 1993). Brett Adam of Xedoc, who runs the Melbourne OzNeXT chapter, says, "In a sense, we've been waiting three years for NEXTSTEP to finally become a reality in Australia."

Adam also runs the real backbone of OzNext, its e-mail list. In a country the size of the United States but with only 18 million people, OzNeXT is a virtual community by necessity. OzNeXTies also hang out on the Usenet's NEXTSTEP discussion groups. As a result, OzNeXT's Internet connectivity may be its most persuasive membership benefit. The virtual user group has been working so well that OzNeXT has only recently made plans for quarterly meetings, which were scheduled to begin this month.

Since last summer (or winter, for the Aussies), the market has really picked up. Thomas believes that "we'll get higher market penetration versus NT in Australia than you will in the U.S."

Idealogy, a Melbourne-based VAD, has added a new NEXTSTEP outfit under Rob Coulson, who says "it will take time to build up the market. Patience and cooperation with a bit of persistence will bring success."

OzNeXT leaders are convinced that they have turned a corner. The disaffected band of neglected NeXT users in Australia has recognized that it, not NeXT or Canon, will ensure the success of NEXTSTEP there. As Adam puts it, "OzNeXT has to take the responsibility to make NEXTSTEP succeed because no one else will."

by Rohit Khare