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Lotus's graphical spreadsheet.

We recently wrote a magazine column admonishing Lotus for not moving faster on developing a true graphical spreadsheet. Jack McGrath, our favorite 1-2-3 guru, called a few days later to say we missed something obvious. "Lotus already has a graphical spreadsheet," McGrath told us. "How do you think Release 3 can display a graph on the same screen as a worksheet?"

McGrath is right, of course. The Lotus publicity machine has been mysteriously silent on this point, but Release 3 does in fact generate a full bit-mapped screen at all times; the program's old-fashioned

character-based look is a kind of software trompe l'oeil simulation.

Why go to all the trouble of faking a character-based interface? Dave Reed, the principle architect of Release 3, says Lotus had a very compelling reason: backwards compatibility. Macros and templates written for Release 2 make certain assumptions about what a 1-2-3 screen will look like, says Reed, and Lotus's developers were concerned that switching to a WYSIWYG environment (with proportional fonts, different type sizes, rules, boxes, shading, etc.) might screw up existing applications.

Okay. That's probably a reasonable judgment call, especially for a product whose basic features were set in concrete more than a year ago, before Excel and Allways started moving up the charts. Our guess is that Lotus probably wouldn't make that same call today; moreover, we suspect Lotus will very soon build a much richer WYSIWYG imaging model on top of Release 3 (presumably drawing on the Presentation Manager-based look and feel of 1-2-3/G).

Meanwhile, however, Release 3's bit-mapped screen raises a fascinating question that most developers and analysts have sidestepped: What exactly is a "graphical" user interface? The zealots from the Macintosh/Windows/PM club usually insist that applications must use icons, mouse support, pull-down menus, windows, scroll bars, and other Xerox-inspired gee-gaws to qualify for membership. Yet plenty of other graphical products--including most of the major CAD and charting packages--create bit-mapped interfaces that don't have roots in the Xerox model. Are these applications somehow "less graphical"? (To further complicate the question, there are a growing number of PC applications--such as HyperPad and some forms drawing packages--that have a definite graphical feel but are entirely character-based.)

Ultimately, debates about graphical interfaces have a tendency to become theological arguments--passionate and rather pointless. The reality of the marketplace, we believe, is that we're seeing a gradual shift from character-based applications to a full bit-mapped, WYSIWYG, objectoriented environment. Macintosh-like interfaces obviously will play a leading role in this shift--but there are also bound to be important alternatives, especially in niches where other interfaces already have deep roots.

Moreover, the shift to a fully graphical envirorment probably won't look like a palace revolution. Rather, graphical applications will slowly infiltrate the marketplace, often arriving virtually unnoticed--just as Lotus's new graphical spreadsheet did.

* INTEL director of microprocessor and graphics marketing Claude Leglise on why he believes it's time for the 386 to become the entrylevel processor: "The 286 is quickly becoming a doorstop or a boat anchor. It was designed in 1979, introduced in 1982, and it is clearly at the end of its life cycle.' (Quoted in The New York Times, 4/16/89)

* SILICON BEACH president Charlie Jackson on why his Mac-based company is unlikely to develop new products for the PC: "This isn't a religious question about whether it's sinful to do development work for someone other than Apple. It's a business decision. The issue for us is whether we'd be better off taking a whole new direction or maximizing what we have on the Mac. since we've got our hands full, we'll stay with the Mac.' (Quoted in MacUser, 5/89)

* APPLE senior vice president Kevin Sullivan on the transformation of his company's corporate values: "As we move from countercultural to mainstream, all that California stuff doesn't mean as much. My 81-yearold mother shouldn't have to like surfing before she can consider using a Macintosh.' (Quoted in Fortune, 5/8/89)

* LOTUS official Steve Turner on why the Japanese version of 1-2-3 has a built-in date function that couldn't be reset when the Japanese started a new calendar era: 'we could not even dream about marketing a program that appeared in any respect whatsoever to question the Emperor's immortality." (Quoted in Computer Systems News, 5/29/89)

* METAPHOR chairman David E. Liddle on why his company agreed to pay Xerox a licensing fee for using graphical interface elements that Xerox claims to own: "We still believe we could continue to do what we were doing without infringing, but we've had to spend a lot of time and effort over the years to avoid the picket fence." (Quoted in Computerworld, 5/29/89)

* MICROSOFT chairman Bill Gates on what might happen if Apple prevails in its 'look and feel' lawsuit against his company: "in the absolute worst case, a few pixels go to sleep." (Quoted in Computerworld, 5/29/89)

* ORACLE chief executive Larry Ellison on whether his company is becoming more mellow: "Lately, I've been concerned that the testosterone level of our advertising has been dropping. If we told people what our plans for Oracle really are, they would probably try to sedate me and take me away." (Quoted in The Wall Street Journal, 5/31/89)

Over the last six years, we've been developing several mailing lists for subscription promotion and survey research. One of these lists, which includes the names and addresses of more than 3,000 micro-based software companies, is now available for rental in various forms, ranging from $400 for one-time use to $1,000 for an unlimited annual license. The names on this list aren't necessarily subscribers (we don't rent subscriber names, though we occasionally trade lists with other newsletters). But the company list does include names of chief executive officers for the majority of companies, so it's a good way to reach people who control most of the software industry's purchasing and product acquisition activity. You'll find more information about our company list on a postcard that accompanies this issue; for sample contracts and other details, please call Tom Stitt, our marketing director, at 617/924-3944.
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Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Lotus 1-2-3 3.0
Publication:Soft-Letter
Date:May 15, 1989
Words:1020
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