Session G005 - OfficeVision - IBM's New Office Family

August 21-25, 1989

IBM has made such noise about "OfficeVision" recently in announcement letters that I just had to see what it was all about. Tony Mondello gave a more-or-less typical IBM presentation on the OfficeVision family to about 400 people. There was about a dozen other OfficeVision sessions at this SHARE.

He mentioned that there were over 1,000 people at IBM actively working on the OfficeVision programming. He pointed out that he had a demo of the code due out next March to show us. When someone in the audience asked if it was production code, he said "It wouldn't be announced for March if it were ready today!"

There was the usual fluff and BS about IBM's view of office "roles". Trendy little diagrams with boxes and arrows and little stylized terminals with little stylized people in correct demographic proportion. Yuk.

OfficeVision is the first SAA application, and was a very large IBM announcement. 15 independent vendors announced support for OfficeVision, with seven of those actually showing applications running on the OfficeVision desktop. It is being made available worldwide in over 20 languages.

So what is it? It looks like a Macintosh! There are little icons you push around on the screen, with pop-up windows and multiple tasks running on the same physical screen. (Interestingly, it doesn't have a "garbage can" icon. It has a "shredder" instead. Seems that Apple took somebody to court last year for copying Apple's garbage can. The lawyers run the world...)

Because OfficeVision requires connectivity to a wide variety of software and hardware, it is internally MUCH more complex than Macintosh. With complexity comes size, but IBM doesn't care. "The day is coming soon," the IBMer said, "where a PC can have 64 MB on the planar, 1 GB of mass storage and - easily - a 50 MIPS processor. Who cares if your application needs 7 or 8 MB to run? What you should be asking is 'How much does it cost?'".

Theoretically, you'll be able to use OfficeVision on any IBM desktop tube - a "dumb" terminal attached to MVS, VM or OS/400, or a "smart" PC running under DOS or OS/2. The OfficeVision shell in turn fires up applications that run anywhere on the network. You won't be able to tell directly which system the application you are dealing with is running on. "Over time" MVS and VM will provide identical function. Their externals might be different, but they will do fundamentally the same things. The OS/2 frontends (i.e. OfficeVision) will smooth the external differences for the user.

IBM will keep adding function to 3270-based and DOS applications, but OS/2 development will always come first. (IBM gave a great deal of lip-service to the idea that DOS is not dead. In fact OS/2 was deemphasized. In regard to DOS, IBM said "We will enhance that base, not stabilize it".)

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