Star Tech Product Picks
P> Netscape Navigator
Netscape Communications Corp., perhaps more than any other company, has done what the Department of Justice could not do: Break Microsoft's stranglehold on the information technology industry. As WT finishes this feature, Netscape is now in its third generation Web browser. In its latest quarter, Netscape had an astounding $55 million in revenues -- up tenfold from last year's period. That growth is a testament both to Netscape and to the new, Internet model of computing that seems to have dethroned client/server computing. The systems integration business will never be the same. Netscape has become part of the essential toolbox for building and maintaining information utilities -- at a fraction the cost of the corporate and agency networks they replace.
Reason No. 2 for cheap, Internet-based computing: Java. As Star Tech Award judge Hank Philcox put it, "Java has changed the paradigm." The Internet-based programming language from Sun Microsystems Inc. introduced the concept of machine-independent, downloadable applications -- applets, to use the jargon of the industry. As such, Java complements Netscape as a critical enabling technology for Internet computing. And like Netscape, Java has opened up whole new, multibillion dollar integration markets. Suddenly, Microsoft is no longer the be-all and end-all of infotech.
But no one, including our judges, would discount Microsoft Corp. The company has taken its share of criticism for imitative, inferior technology. Yet few would dispute the advance represented by Windows 95. It gives PC users something like the ease-of-use of the Macintosh. And the operating system also includes relatively easy links to the Internet's TCP/IP protocol. Just like that, millions of users can thank Microsoft, rather than Netscape and Sun Microsystems, for Internet access. Microsoft may be a follower, but it is a fast and able follower.
JP Morgan Securities Inc., in a January report on database technology, had this to say about Informix Software Inc.'s strategic positioning: "It is already working to incorporate its database technology into Internet-oriented applications from Netscape Communications and it has recently announced partnerships with Web development tool vendors. We believe these actions position the company to take advantage of this major technology shift toward Web-based computing." The INFORMIX-Universal Server, which allows users to store and access multiple data types, is a key factor in this strategy -- and a critical technology for the systems integration community.
Digital 64-bit AlphaServer 8400
Digital Equipment Corp.'s Alpha architecture was introduced at a time when many were doubting the company's survival. Sure, critics said, it's an impressive technology -- a computer on a chip. But who really needs all that power? Who would write applications to take advantage of that power with able competitors such as Sun or Hewlett-Packard? They'll catch up.
The critics were wrong. Alpha has not only established itself as the premiere workstation for serious applications, it also has led Digital's improbable comeback from the financial dead. The company has recorded six consecutive quarters of profitability after accumulating losses of $5 billion from 1991 to 1994.
Instant Index Inc.'s product is one that sounds too good to be true. It generates an index from scanned information at speeds as much as 10 times that of competitors. It can index and instantly search in any character-based language. And the indexes themselves are only a fraction the size of the original text -- unlike most automatic indexing technologies. But here's the best part: Instant Index takes up minimal memory, costs $150 and can run on Windows-based PCs. Ted Holden, the developer of the technology, appears to have created a critical technology for sorting through the increasing data clutter of the information age.