Workstations Challenge PCs for Space on the Executives's Desktop.
Both contenders have been busy recently staking their claims for the executive desktop. Two new California-based firms generated considerable interest when they unveiled advanced workstations that build on the "user-friendly" features pioneered by Xerox with its Star 8010 workstation and Apple Computer with its Lisa computer.
One of the startups, Metaphor Systems, was founded by former Xerox executives and uses an Ethernet-style architecture based on workstations, electronic printers, and file, data-base and communications servers linked by a local-area network. Its user interface includes a "mouse" and a five-button keypad, which are used to select and execute data-management and analysis functions represented on the screen by graphic metaphors, or icons.
Santa Barbara Laboratories also dispenses with a keyboard in favor of touch-screen operation with its Centerpoint 1000 executive information system. The workstation also allows voice data entry and text editing, and integrates such traditional executive tools as telephone, dictation, calendar, file cabinets, electronic mail, personal computer and teleconferencing.
On the PC front, a number of computer and office-automation suppliers have incorporated a mouse and touch-screen operation into their products, and introduced portable versions for executives on the go. Third-party software suppliers have also targeted executives with integrated packages that allow the executive to run a variety of applications without having to shuffle floppy disks. Most run on the IBM PC, which now has a multi-user capability and improved networking to allow executives to communicate more effectively with managers and others in their departments. In one of the more exciting developments, several suppliers are intergrating intelligent telephone capabilities with the PC to provide executives with all the information-management functions they need. Xerox Simplifies User Interface
Xerox effectively launched the era of integrated workstations with the April 1981 introduction of its Star 8010 system, which combines computing and text editing with graphics creation and communications. Besides providing a broader range of capabilities than anything that preceded it, Star pioneered new concepts in "human engineering." Xerox say it devoted about 30 man-years to the Star user interface, which was designed before the functionality of the system was fully decided and before the computer hardware ware even built.
As a result, Star requires no technical skills to operate. For one thing, the display screen shows familiar office objects such as documents, folders, file drawers and "in" baskets as recognizable images, or icons. Other innovations include a two-page desktop display with bit-mapped screen and a cursor-control device called a "mouse," which has two buttons on top and can be moved freely on the desktop. By moving the mouse, the user can position the cursor pointer to any desired spot on the screen to initiate a desired function. With the exception of composing text, professionals can do most of their work by using the mouse and only four main function keys on the keyboard.
Every user's initial view of Star is the "desktop," which resembles the top of an office desk with icons of familiar objects such as documents, folders and in and out-baskets displayed on the screen. You can "open" an icon to deal with what it represents. This allows you to read documents, inspect the contents of folders and file drawers, and see what mail you have received. When opened, an icon expands into a large form called a "window," which displays the icon's contents. Windows are the principal mechanism for displaying and manipulating information.
Star users are encouraged to think of the objects on the desktop in physical terms. For instance, you can leave documents on your desktop indefinitely, just as on a real desk, or you can file them away in folders on file drawers. Xerox believes that this model of a physical office provides a simple base from which learning can proceed in an incremental fashion without a person being exposed to entirely new concepts all at once.
All of this comes at a price, of course, and the initial tag of more than $15,000 was too steep for many prospective users. Last year Xerox reduced the price of the workstation by 34 percent, to $9,995, and introduced two additional low-cost models: a stand-alone workstation priced at $8,995 and a remote workstation priced at $9,995. The stand-alone model can be upgraded at a userhs office to a remote workstation or a regular network version. The remote workstation uses regular phone lines and can be routed through a PBX to an Ethernet local network. Once linked to the network, it fully shares all regular network resources such as electronic printing, electronic mail and electronic files. The remote Star has all the characteristics of a network system Star. However, no local servers are required at the remote site. Instead the workstation can connect into an Ethernet netowrk installation via a PBX or leased or dial-up link.
Xerox has also expanded the capabilities of Ethernet with new communications features that allow Star workstations to access computer systems from IBM and Digital Equipment. One feature allows the Star workstation to emulate IBM 3278 display terminals, providing compatibility with SNA protocols. Using Star's multiple-window capability, a user can display as many as six 3278 "windows" and simultaneously access up to six different programs or mainframes using SNA. For communications with Digital computers, the workstation emulates a VT 100 terminal.
Another communications feature permits document interchange among computer systems from various vendors. With this remote batch service, information created on IBM mainframe computers can be sent to Xerox network systems for integration and enhancement. Likewise, informaton created on Zerox systems can be sent to mainframes for processing or archiving. The remote batch service also supports documents interchange with other mainframes, word processors and workstation that support the IBM 2770/2780/3780 communications protocols. Apple's Lisa Integrates Applications
Apple Computer also uses the icons and mouse in the Lisa computer, which created some milestones of its own when it was introduced in 1983. For instance, Lisa provides a common user environment for six key functions: text processing, spreadsheet calculations, business graphics, a drawing program, a personal data-base program and a Pert chart project-scheduling capability. Since all applications share common data and instructions, users can move from program to program without changing disks or reentering the data.
Along with this integrated software approach, Lisa also features inexpensive local-area network capability, as well as communications in an IBM mainframe environment. Lisa did challenge the notion of a large display is large enough to view only one-half page of material in actual size. To compensate for the small screen, multiple windows can be overlapped. Moving the mouse to a window and clicking its button makes it an "active" window.
Last year, Apple introduced three higher-performance versions of Lisa with larger memory and disk capacity, ranging in price from $3,495 to $5,495. At the same time, it unveiled the much-awaited Macintosh computer, based on Lisa's 32-bit architecture and bit-mapped screen, and priced at $2,495. All of the new Lisa 2 computers are equipped with the same compact 3.5-inch microdisk drive used by Macintosh. An upgraded operating system and the faster microdisk drive give the new computers two to three times the speed of the original Lisa, according to Apple.
The basic Lisa 2 has 512K bytes of random access memory and one microdisk drive. It include the Macintosh operating system, enabling it to run Macintosh software. The larger Lisa 2/5 with its 5M-byte disk and the Lisa 2/10 with its 10m-byte disk have sufficient mass storage to run many third-party software packages and a wide range of programs based on the Unix operating system. When expanded to a full 1M byte of RAM, the 2/5 and 2/10 can run the complete Lisa Office System with its integrated software. The Lisa Office System allows simultaneous operation of multiple Lisa programs, as well as cut-and-paste integration that lets users easily move information--text, numbers and graphics--from one application to another.
Like Lsa,Macintosh uses its built-in user interface software and high-resolution display to simulate an actual desktop working environment, complete with built-in notepads, file folders, calculator and other office tools. Weighing less than 17 pounds, Macintosh's main unit occupies a 10 by 10-inch desk space and incorporates a nine-inch 512-by-342 pixes black-on-white display. In addition, the Macintosh features both a mouse and a keyboard.
Initially, Apple offered two applications programs for Macintosh, one fr world processing and one for graphics. It later added software for asynchronous communications and operation in IBM 3278 mode, and a project-management tool. However, Apple expects 90 percent of all Macintosh software to come from independent software vendors, and claims that at least 100 of the world's leading independent software and hardware vendors are working to build an extensive library of software packages and peripherals. One of the most useful is an integrated business software package called Jazz developed by Lotus Development exclusively for the Macintosh 512K and Lisa computers. The program combines word processing, worksheet analysis, data-based management, communications and business graphic functions into a single integrated package that retails for $595. Metaphor for Decision-Makers
Screen icons and other innovative user interfaces are key elements of the two executive-orinted systems from Metaphor Computer Systems of Mountain View and Santa Barbara Laboratories of Santa Barbara. Metaphor Computer Systems was founded in October 1982 by former Xerox executives Donald Massaro and David Liddle. Their aim was to provide corporate decision-makers with a "straightforward tool that extracts, translates and combines information from multiple mainframe data-base management systems, yet assures MIS managers of data integrity and security."
The effort bore fruit last September when Metaphor unveiled its "keyboardless" system integrating information retrieval, spreadsheet and other analysis, graphics and text processing, and using icons to represent familiar gaphic metaphors for the complex activities of data management and analysis. The user employs a mouse to select a particular icon and then uses one of only five function buttons on a small keypad to direct the activity. In additon to the workstations, the system comprises database, file and communications servers and electronic printers, connected via a local network that complies with the IEEE 802.3 standard.
The idea behind the Metaphor management information retrieval system is to extract corporate and commercial data from production files and data bases in an IBM environment and to convert the raw data into user-retrievable form for direct management use. "We set up Metaphor as a powerful analytical tool recognized first for the job it lets managers accomplish, rather than for the sophisticated technology that it is based upon," explains Don Massaro, chairman and chief executive officer.
Accordingly, before the company install a system, it works with users and corporate MIS departments to extract, translate and reogranize that data residing in an IBM mainframe into a usable format. The system's easy-to-use interface and application-building functions allow even the most inexperienced computer user to immediately view and analyze information without worrying about the underlying technology.
Massaro cites the finance and marketing functions in large corporations as examples of two departments with special informaton requirements not easily supported by general-purpose data bases. He believes the focus on general-purpose products has been a major barrier to supplying professionals with effective tools for information retrieval and use. Also, few of these professionals have, or care to have, computer experience or keyboard typing skills.
Metaphor sets out to address both problems with a system that can be easily tailored to meet the needs of users with different job functions and in different industries. Each department can have its own customized "view" of corporation information, while the underlying raw data is stored in an efficient and secure manner for general use. Data processing managers administer and ensure data security, while users, regardless of computer expertise, quickly and easily specify how to retrieve, analyze and present corporate mainframe and commercial data to meet their specific needs.
Metaphor's basic eight-station configuration with 72M-byte file server, data base server with an addtional 72M-byte storage module and full set of user and host communications software sells for $64,000. It can accommodate a maximum of 32 workstations for a flat rate of $4,000 each, with additional software charges ranging from $1,000 to $1,200, depending on volume.
Santa Barbara Laboratories also takes a keyboardless approach to its executive workstation, called the Centerpoint 1000 executive information system. Centerpoint replaces the keyboard with touch-screen and voice input, providing access to over a dozen routine office tasks through screen icons representing such functions as dictation, file and document retrieval, spreadsheet analysis and the automatic dialing of telephone calls. Supporting the system's voice and touch-screen operations is an electronics module with 80M bytes of storage capacity. A two-screen secretary's console is also an integral part of the system; one screen is identical to the executive's and the second is a conventional video display terminal with keyboard for word processing and data entry.
System capabilities include electronic telephone, electronic mail and videoconferencing, voice store-and-forward, voice over text, decision-support gragphics and a number of office-automation functions, including word processing, personal calendar and computing, and calculation capabilities. Centerpoint's modular system design enables multi-user capabilities as well as local and global networking of systems. Additionally, the system supports a host of standard business software packages through its compatibility with MSDOS and CP/M-86.
According to Reginald Parker, vice president of marketing, more than 300,000 top-level executives and professionals are potential users of systems such as the Centerpoint 1000. These top managers spend 60 to 70 percent of their productive time involved in some sort of communications, whether by telephone or face-to-face, Parker states. Traditionally this group doesn't have the time or the inclination to become computer literate, he says. They do not want to learn the routines of keyboard-controlled dialogs, nor does the mouse offer them a truly "transparent" and immediate way to access, modify, edit or input information.
touch and voice are the ideal vehicles for the person-computer interface for these individuals, Parker believes. Also, since senior-level white-collar workers account for between 70 and 80 percent of office payroll costs, Parker believes that tools such as the Centerpoint 1000 that increase the productivity of these workers will be in great demand during the coming years.
The executive console features a color touch-secreen and integrated telephone/speakerphone, and supports 480 by 512-pixel graphics with 16 colors. Touch the telephone or intercomm symbol on the screen and it displays a virtual telephone with built-in 2,000-name Rolodex-type file. Open the file to the name you want, touch the number and Centerpooint dials it automatically. The virtual mailbox provides access to the voice and text mail function, and you can leave a message in your secretaryhs mailbox simply by recording it on the handset or speakerphone. A personal code lets you play back and record from phones anywhere in the world.
For meetings or presentations, a virtual slide projector lets you quickly create and store "snapshots" of diagrams, charts or any full-color graphic image. These can be projected in sequence or in random order and seen on a TV monitor across the room or across the country. Other screen icons provide instant access to information stored in the system, in the firm's mainframe computers or in remote company and public data bases. Icons for filing cabinets, drawers and folders let you "thumb though" personal documents. For retrieving information from remote data bases, log-on procedures and complicated data-base interrogation methods can be pre-programmed so that informaton can be retrieved simply by touching the screen.
Dictation files are represented by eight "virtual cassettes," which can record up to 90 minutes of dictation. After the material is transcribed and returned for review, the executive can "edit" the transcription with voice comment. Centerpoint also provides a personal calendar and a "virtual personal computer" with on-screen keyboard. Alternatively, users can choose an optional attachable keyboard. In addition, Centerpoint offers audioconferencing and optional videoconferencing, complete with robotic color camera pre-programmed to pan, tilt, zoom and focus on room locations selected by touching the corresponding location on the screen. An overhead camera focuses on the desktop for sending or strong text, diagrams and photographs.
Santa Barbara Labs unveiled the Centerpoint system to an enthusiastic audience at the 1984 Federal Office Automation Conference in Washington, DC last November. Beta sites include major government agencies, a communications company and a major telephone company. Unix-Based Systems Gain Favor
Fortune Systems also created a stir when it introduced its Fortune 32:16 workstation, based on the powerful 32-bit Motorola MC68000 microprocessor. Though it looks like a desktop microcomputer, the Unix-based multi-user system performs like a medium-sized minicomputer. After flagging fortunes, the Redwood City, California firm is now benefitting from the current interest in multi-user systems and managed to record a small profit in its last quarter. Hoping to build on that success, the firm recently upgraded the low end of its line, adding memory and reducing the price to compete with the multi-suer IBM PC AT. The entry-level system with 10M-byte disk drive now sells for $5,995. It also added a new version of its high-end system supporting a 45M-byte Winchester disk drive, with a list price of $14,995.
In addition, the firm capitalized on its name in introducing a new family of desktop workstations, called Fortune 1000. Designed to operate with the firm's 32:16 CPU, the workstations range from a basic keyboard-display unit listing for $795 to a workstation that runs either Unix or PC-DOS applications and lists for $7,085, including a 10M-byte Winchester disk drive. With its ability to handle both Unix and PC-DOS, the workstations permit networking between IBM and PCs and various Fortune products. Fortune chaims to be a leader in Unix systems, with more than 37,500 workstations installed worldwide.
Another innovative Unix-based system was recently introduced by Applix of Southboro, Massachusetts, which claims to have combined the advantages of integrated PC applications with the information-sharing benefits of communications-ased office-automation systems. Known as Alis, the software system introduces a new concept with documents: active integration. This feature allows the user to combine different types of information, such as text, drawings and business graphics, spreadsheets and data-base information, into a single document, while retaining the ability to edit each kind of information in its original form.
"Graphic illustrations and drawings can be added to text and the user can view the entire document as it will appear, editing any part as needed," explains John Butler, vice president of marketing. Butler contrasts this with what he calls "passive integration" of information in a document, when the user must return to the source document to edit information.
Alis also provides continuous intelligent formating assistance during text creation and editing, and allows users to edit all graphics in a consistent manner. For example, users can draw organizational charts or have spreadsheet data graphed automatically, and edit either using the same interface. Among the features of the spreadsheet function are a built-in equation-solving capability, on-screen editable business graphics and automatic inter-spreadsheet references. To this, Alis adds integrated electronic mail, meeting and resource shedulings, and other information-sharing capabilities for enhancing group communications.
"To gain maximum benefit from an office-automation system, it must view the office as a place where people share information and ideas," says Butler. Alis, he believes, meets those needs while also providing a broad, fully integrated set of applications. Alis is priced at $1350 for bit-mapped workstations and $900 for terminal-based devices, with quantity discounts available. IBM Leads PC Upgrades
Several software suppliers are already targeting IBM's Personal Computer and compatible machines to give them many of the features required by executives, including an integrated software environment. Last fall, IBM announced its own PC software family, integrating business accounting programs with software for building spreadsheets, creating reports and preparing graphs. It also introudced its most powerful PC, the PC AT, which can operate as a multi-user system, as well as the capability to link up to 72 IBM PCs for sharing information, programs and peripheral devices.
In addition, IBM unveiled a "windowing" program for PCs, called Top View, which allows users to quickly and easily work with a variety of programs and information at the same time. Capable of operating with either a keyboard or mouse, TopView is intended for individuals who want to operate several different programs concurrently, switch quickly from one task to another while using the computer or view data from several applications using windows on a single display screen.
The IBM PC AT uses the high-speed Intel 80286 microprocessor and delivers almost five times the user memory and more than twice the information storage capacity previously available on IBM PCs. In most cases, system performance is two to three times faster, the firm claims. The computer comes in two easily expanded models: a $3,995 unit that includes 256K bytes of user memory and a new 1.2M-byte diskette drive; and a $5,795 model that includes 512K of user memory, the 1.2M-byte diskette drive and a new 20M-byte fixed disk drive. Both can be expanded with options to more than 3M bytes of user memory and up to 41.2M bytes of disk storage. IBM also announced version 3.0 of its PC-DOS operating system, which has added function to support the new PC AT hardware and is compatible with all IBM PCs. It also announced the IBM PC Xenix operating system for the PC AT, which enables two additional terminals to share the computer's processing power in a multi-tasking environment.
Other mainframe suppliers, including Honeywell, NCR and Sperry, also offer such functions as electronic spreadsheets, graphics, text processing and electronic mail on their workstations and/or personal computers. Last September, Digital Equipment Corporation added to its Professional workstation family with a top-of-the-line model featuring increased graphics capabilities and more than twice the speed of the previous high-end Professional 350. The Professional 380 is fully upward-compatible with other members of the workstation family and can run many of the application programs developed for Digital's family of PDP-11 minicomputers.
New application packages include Synergy, which provides users with the first software with windowing available for the Professional workstation family. The windows allow users to view four applications simultaneously. Applications in the package include word processing, data-base management, spreadsheet, a statistical ggraphing package for business data, file services and file. A drawing package, called Pro/Sight allows users to create graphics for presentation and mix text with images in final documents. Professional 380 systems are priced from $8,995, with upgrade kits prices at $4,625 with trade-in.
Wang Labs offers users a choice between its Alliance workstation and its Professional Computer, which is based on the 16-bit Intel 8086 processor chip and offer word processing, electronic spreadsheet, business graphics, data-base management and many off-the-shelf application packages. Besides operating in stand-alone mode, the Professional Computer can serve as a workstation on Alliance, as well as other Wang systems, and can communicate with other devices or mainframes via telephone line or WangNet local network.
With Alliance, Wang Labs also began merging voice and text capabilities through the introduction of its Audio Workstation. A digital-based voice editor in the Audio Workstation allows authors to dictate, review and edit voice documents, which are graphically represented on the screen. Users speak through a telephone attached to the workstation, which remains available for incoming or outgoing calls. In transcribing dictated voice documents, the operator can use all the features of Wang's WP software.
Through the Audio Workstation, users can also create "voicegrams" which can be routed to the recipient's electronic in-basket through the Alliance message system. Further, when used in conjunction with the appropriate Alliance data-base software, the Audio Workstation provides an automatic dialing function from an automated telephone directory. Touch instead of Type
Hewlett-Packard offers its Touch-screen personal computer as the workstation for executives unwilling or unable to type. Simply by touching the computer's screen, the executive can create graphics, move paragraphs tof text, find a file and perform scores of other procedures. Priced at $3,995, the HP 150 uses the 16-bit Intel 8088 microprocessor to run Microsoft's MS-DOS 2.0 operating system, so it can function as a terminal in networkds of larger business computers, including those of HP and IBM.
In addition, the Touch-screen PC is an important element of HP's Personal Productivity Center concept, which integrates personal computing with distributed data processing, office automation and communications. This means that the HP 150 can be used to access HP's integrated electronic filing, text editing and other capabilities, as well as external services such as The Source and Dow Jones News/Retrieval. Also, documents, spreadsheets and graphics can be distributed anywhere in the world in a format that users can view, print and revise.
Datapoint takes a three-pronged approach to meeting executive needs, according to Al Malinger, director of product marketing for the San Antonio, Texas-based firm. "There are three requirements," he says. "First, a sophisticated tool designed especially for use by the 'knowledge worker' or decision maker with the ability to execute services and applications; second, the services and applications required by the knowledge worker; and third, an intelligent network that delivers the services and applications transparently to the workstation."
Datapoint supplies the first component in the form of an executive workstation; the second is filled by storage and printing resources, and by software for communications and general office functions, such as word processing, electronic mail and financial management. Finally, the firm's ARC local-area network interconnects Datapoint and non-Datapoint hardware to give knowledge workers access to proprietary and industry-standard operating systems and applications software. Datapoint's latest executive workstation, the Vista-Station-84 uses the Intel 80286 microprocessor to improve processing speed and responsiveness, and provide enhanced multi-tasking capabilities. The workstation is also compatible with the firm's Pro-Vista office automation products.
For executives who want to take their workstations with them, Data General has introduced a 10-pound portable computer that is smaller than a briefcase yet performs all the functions of desktop personal computers. The Data General/One runs industry-standard operating systems such as MS-DOS, CP/M-86 and Venix (an AT&T-licensed implementation of Unix), and is fully compatible with the IBM PC. Data General claims the unit is the industry's first to incorporate a 25-line by 80-column liquid-crystal display, capable of displaying text and graphics with the resolution and character proportions of a conventional computer terminal screen. The bit-mapped display with 640 by 256-pixel resolution is also is also suitable for graphics applications.
With 128K bytes of memory and a 737-byte 3.5-inch microfloppy disk drive, the system costs $2,895. The computer will accommodate user memory of 512K bytes, and a second microfloppy disk drive, or it can be configured with an integrated 5.25-inch floppy disk drive or Winchester hard disk. Options include a built-in 300-b/s modem and rechargeable nickel-cadmium battery pack that provides 10 hours of use. A software package called CEO Connection allows the portable to function as a Data General terminal running CEO software and other Eclipse MV family applications.
Even though portable computers make up a relatively small part of the Pc market today, they are the fastest-growing sement, according to the reseach firm, Future Computing. It estimates that sales of battery-portables for personal and business use will exceed $3.5 billion in 1989, a seven-fold increase over the projected figure for 1984. IBM has already blessed the concept with its portable PC, and other industry notables such as Apple, HP and Radio Shack offer portable PCs.
One of the pioneers is Grid Systems, whose Compass computer has set the standard for deluxe portables. The computer measures 11.5 by 15 by 2 inches and comes with built-in 300/1200-b/s modem and two modular jacks. One provides direct connection to the public telephone system for voice or data transmission; the second is for a telephone handset, allowing the system to be used as a power-assisted telephone for voice communications. Terminal emulators cover operation as a tele-printer, as well as IBM 2780/3780, 3270 and 3741 devices.
Last summer, the Mountain View, California firm introduced the Compass I family, featuring faster execution speeds, larger bubble memory and increased RAM buffer space. Pre-programmed, user-installable ROM cartridges provide a convenient means of storing and executing application programs and operating systems, leaving the RAM storage free to accommodate larger spreadsheets, data bases and text files. Customized user software can also be burned into ROM.
In December, the firm announced two new models of the Compass II computer with larger electroluminescent (EL) screens and introduced three software packages to take advantage of the larger screen. Measuring eight inches diagonally, the new light-emitting EL display can hold up to 128 characters on a single line. As a result, it accommodates larger spreadsheets and data bases and reduces the amount of scrolling needed to see all the columns in a wide file. In addition, the firm claims the EL displays are much easier to read than the LCD screens common to most other portable computers.
Another popular workstation is the unit integrating data, text and graphics capabilities with voice communications. Northern Telecom was an early pioneer of the integrated telephone-workstation with its Displayphone. Other suppliers of digital PBXs have since followed suit, including GTE, Rolm and ITT.
A major feature of Northern Telecom's Displayphone is the simplicity of its main function keypad. Five keys directly below the screen, called "soft keys," are identified by displays on the screen that indicate the fnction of each key at any given time. This makes it simpler to modify or add new features and also makes operation and training easier. Another convenience feature allows users to store short messages or reminders within the terminal, with an alerting tone or flashing light for prompting the user.
Displayphone features can be used simultaneously on voice or data calls. It has two separate display pages; one for telephone and the other for data. Users can select and view either page without altering the contents or disrupting the service performed on the other. The unit also has two telephone lines so users can make simultaneous voice and data connections. A built-in speakerphone allows the user to write, read or enter information via the keyboard during a telephone conversation.
With the introduction of Displayphone Plus in September, the Nashville firm emulating terminals from IBM, Digital Equipment, Data General, ADDS, Hazeltine, Televideo and others. In addition, the terminal contains a built-in 212-A compatible auto-answer modem, with selectable 300 or 1200-l/s transmission rates, allowing the device to answer data calls from any compatible unit.
The Displayphone Plus features a fullsize retractable keyboard and an amber screen, and includes a telephone unit with 90-number directory and automatic dialing feature. It is priced at $1,595. Complete with the Starlink software from Digital Research, the device still sells for a per-station cost of less than $1800. Starlink permits as many as four Displayphone terminals to access an IBM PC or compatible computer. In addition, the StarLink-Displayphone package allows users of IBM PC or compatible systems to share files, software and data simultaneously.
ITT's InfoStation combines an executive telephone and full-duplex speakerphone with a nine-inch CRT display, typewriter-style keyboard, 300-b/s modem and dashboard with 13 programmable keys for single-line access to frequently dialed numbers of PBX functions. Users can manage their time and their desks with such features as a telephone directory and log, calendar, scratch pad, electronic messaging and data communications.
"The InfoStation is a natural extension of our product line," says Richard Lindenmuth, president of the Business and Consumer Communications Division ITT Telecom Products. "Combined with our PBX, electronic key systems and the ITT Xtra personal computer, the InfoStation enhances our position as a communications systems supplier."
GTE's XT300 ActionStation combines an ASCII terminal with build-in modem and nine-inch high-resolution screen with a full-feature electronic telephone, speaker phone and large-capacity speed dialer. The ActionStation's two-line capability allows simultaneously voice and data transmission, and the unit provides access to a wide range of data transmission and retrieval services, including GTE's Telemail electronic mail service and online public data-base services. A personal directory permits storage of 50 names and telephone numbers, and eight computer sign-on procedures. It also stores 12 frequently used commands, report names and data file names of up to 36 characters.
Reflecting its merger with IBM, Rolm's two latest terminal offerings marry its digital PBX system with IBM PCs. The cedar desktop workstation combines a full-feature telephone with an IBM-compatible personal computer reportedly designed by Rolm. Through its connection with the Rolm CBX, Cedar offers fast, easy access to computers and data bases, convenient one-touch dialing of telephone numbers, a simple user interface to CBX features and several personal-productivity services. For current users of IBM PCs, Rolm also introduced the Juniper, a full-feature telephone that attaches to an IBM PC and offers the same features found in Cedar.
Both devices connect to the CBX via RolmLink, a high-speed communications link that provides simultaneous voice, data and control information over a single pair of telephone wires. RolmLink provides single-button feature access and speed dialing, as well as display of the calling party's name and call-progress status. It also provides data speeds up to 19.2 kb/s asynchronous and permits autodialing of data bases with different terminal characteristics.
Priced at $4,995 for a single unit and at $4,245 in quantities of 100, Cedar comes with 512K bytes of RAM, two 360K-byte 5.25-inch floppy disk drives, a nine-inch bit-mapped display and detachable alphanumeric keyboard. Personal communications software provides telephone directory and calendaring functions, among others. Cedar users can decide how much of the unit's memory will be devoted to a personal telephone list, how much to user-identified terminal profiles and how much to single-button dialing.
Juniper sells for $1,360 in quantities of 100. It offers the same communications functions as Cedar, as well as both VT 100 and IBM 3270 emulation, and data communications at speeds to 19.2 kb/s. PCs Become Smart Phones, Too
While Juniper and Cedar only function with Rolm's CBX systems, a number of other firms, including Zaisan and Ambi, offer combined IBM PC/telephone products that work independently of any particular vendor's PBX. Wilcom of Roswell, Georgia supplies a $795 hardware/software package that converts the IBM PC and PC-compatibles into executive workstations combining the power of personal computers with the convenience of advanced telephone communications. Called asher, the package comprises a user-installed option board, two floppy disks, a telephone handset and cords, and a 300-b/s modem.
Designed for simple user installation, Asher adds to the PC an array of personalized dialing, filing and scheduling features without disturbing existing software applications. Used side-by-side with these dialing operations, are several Asher-unique elements that give managers hands-on control and flexibility in communications tasks. These include a 250-name telephone directory, 250-card file, 250-number speed-dial list, calendar, appointment schedule and task list. The calendar includes an audible alarm that alerts the user to impending appointments. Tasks not completed one day are automatically rolled over to the next.
In all cases, Asher provides on-line functional assistance through a HELP key and uses "context-oriented" prompts to guide the user step-by-step through all available options. Asher also uses memory partitioning so the user can instantly switch from one software program to another without having to switch floppy disks. Alternating application programs is accomplished by pressing just one key, as are many of the additional data and voice communications features.
Cygnet Technologies' CoSystem also provides personal computer users with electronic mail, time and project management and a host of intelligent telephone functions. Available in 300 and 1200-b/s versions, the CoSystem incorporates 92K bytes of memory, an internal modem and extensive software for intelligent telephone functions, terminal emulation and time management. Unlike other PC expansion products that plug into card slots in the PC, the CoSystem makes its connection through a standard RS-232 serial link, so that users can move CoSystems from their old PC or PC XT to the new PC AT as they need more power without any hardware changes. CoSystem is also compatible with the AT&T 6300 personal computer, as well as other IBM PC-compatible machines.
Electronic mail is sent directly to the CySystem, not the computer, so that mail can be transmitted or received while the computer is being used for other applications, or even if the computer is turned off. Additionally, data can be transmitted, unattended, at any specific time during the day or night when the phone rates are reduced. Messages written on the personal computer can be transmitted to individuals in the CoSystem's 400-name electronic mail address directory using three keystrokes or less. Correspondence can be routed to a distribution list, carbon copies can be created and incoming messages can be forwarded to others, filed or thrown away. A red "mail" light flashes on the CoSystem to let the recipient know a message has arrived.
The CoSystem also enables an individual to temporarily stop working on an application program on the PC, send the message and then pick up where the program was stopped. It is also easy to send lengthy text and binary data files stored on a disk. Since the CoSystem can interleave data and voice signals over a single telephone line, individuals can send "screen mail" to each other and confer while viewing the same images and information on their computer screens, all by touching two keys.
CoSystem includes all the features common to intelligent telephones, including 400-name directory, speed-dialing, continuous re-dial with silent operation, single-button Sprint or MCI access and three-way teleconferencing. In addition, the system includes an electronic filing cabinet, time-management programs, an executive calendar and scheduling system, and project-tracking software that logs the time spent on different tasks over the course of the day, week, month or year. More than 13 man-years of software development time were reportedly invested in developing the application software. The CoSystem costs $1,495 for the 300-b/s version and $1,845 for the 1200-b/s model.
Cygnet was founded in 1982 by three computer industry veterans, headed by Dr. Federico Faggin, the developer of the first microprocessor and founder of Zilog. In conceiving the CoSystem, they anticipated both the phenomenal growth of the personal computer industry and the concurrently developing demand for gathering and communicating information, rather than just processing data. The "Other Half"
"It was increasingly apparent that the personal computer would be limited as a truly productive office tool if the information it generated could not be more effectively transmitted and discussed with other users," says Faggin, president of the Sunnyvale, California firm. "The majority of business activity is communicating, and our objective was to provide this capability with the 'communications half' of the personal computer."
For executive workstations to be effective, Faggin believes that integrated support systems, such as mainframes, telephones and networks, must first be in place. "Executive workstations cannot operate effectively in an automated vacuum," he states. "Products like the CoSystem, which tie a company's network of PCs together and provide unified voice/data communications capabilities, are a critical part of that support structure. It is only after a company's advanced systems are integrated that executive workstations can provide the functionality senior executives need."
Another pioneer of the integrated voice/data workstation is Sydis of San Jose, California, whose uniquely packaged VoiceStation 1 can replace virtually everything on the manager's desktop--telephone, Rolodex, in and out boxes, pencil, paper and calendar. Designed with the understanding that knowledge workers spend up to 95 percent of their time communicating, the system strives to make communications and information processing more effective so the user can achieve higher levels of productivity.
Soft keys on the face of the workstation together with the system's voice features allow for keyboard-free operation of 95 percent of all functions. Users can store the keyboard in a desk drawer or slide it under the terminal and still use the unit. The voice store-and-forward feature allows for dictation, annotation and editing of text without use of the keyboard.
Also, the integration of the telephone provides easy access to voice and text messaging, in addition to advanced display telephone features. Voice, text and graphics can all be incorporated into each document display, and up to 10 windows of characters or graphics can be shown on the screen at one time. The 12-inch diagonal CRT delivers a text area of 38 lines by 104 characters each, and a graphic bitmap area of 832 pixels horizontally by 608 pixels vertically.
For PC users, Sydis offers a hardware/software package, called the VoiceStation 110, which allows IBM PCs and compatibles, as well as PCs that can emulate a VT 100, to access the capabilities of the VoiceStation system. The VoiceStations are supported by the Sydis Information Manager (SIM), a high-performance, 68000-based multiprocessor system that will support more than 200 workstations.
The SyLink local-area network connects a VoiceStation or other RS-232-compatible device to the SIM over a dedicated 320-kb/s digital line using existing twisted-pair telephone wires. Voice and data are multiplexed over this link. While Sydis does not currently offer support for other LAN technologies, it plans to do so when "a larger installed base of LANs begins to appear and it is clear which LAN architectures are gaining real market acceptance."
Davox of Billerica, Massachusetts also offers integrated voice/data workstations that function through communications controllers and a proprietary LAN, called DavoxNet, which permits simultaneous transmission of voice and data over existing telephone wires at 400 kb/s. DavoxNet permits the sharing and networking of resources such as personal computers and printers while eliminating the expense and delays involved in installing coaxial-cable-based local-area networks. DavoxNet is compatible with virtually all existing PBX systems and will interface to all IBM and compatible mainframes.
Up to 32 users can share the power of single or multiple IBM PCs across the network. For instance, an IBM PC AT can operate as the repository for all PC software in the network. Through DavoxNet, multiple users can request the same software and run it on distributed PCs at the same time, eliminating "floppy trading" headaches and allowing individual software programs to become a centralized network resource.
All Davox workstations incorporate smart buttons, which provide single-key access to information. The buttons can be programmed to perform complex log-on/log-off routines or to perform a sequence of commands involving interaction with a mainframe or other computing resource.
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|Date:||Feb 1, 1985|
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