Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Front-End Systems Vendors Coping: Atex, CText Modify Pact; SII Rings Up Late Orders, Launches SII Global Net

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Front-End Systems Vendors Coping: Atex, CText Modify Pact; SII Rings Up Late Orders, Launches SII Global Net

Article excerpt

In the third year of an industry downturn, front-end systems vendors CText Inc. and System Integrators Inc. say they managed to pull through 1992 with several new orders coming their way.

Like most of their competitors, both vendors saw work forces shrink and executives depart in the course of the recession. Like some others during the period, the two began pushing out of their longtime market segments: CText into larger newspapers and SII into smaller ones.

In addition to their own applications development, to design for other market segments, both firms make use of technology from Tandem Computers Inc.

One system manager noted that, if a power line is pulled or a disc drive is yanked, the Tandem "doesn't care" and the user "doesn't notice."

A new Tandem CPU allowed SII to create a system version appropriate for "midrange" newspapers. In fact, the latest order for its new System/55 XR came from what is probably its smallest new customer in years, a 17,000-circulation daily.

CText also adopted Tandem machines as central processors for its Dateline editorial system, developed for the large Chicago Tribune but adaptable for, and now installing at, much smaller dailies.

Similarly, both companies are moving with other networked OS/2-based systems. SII's CoyoteMTX, which connects to a Tandem, will also function independently on its own subnet. CText's PC-only version of Dateline may rely on a network version of Sybase database management and dispense with a Tandem as central database server. (In addition, the database on another version may reside on an IBM RS6000.)

Five more orders

For SII, fiscal 1992 "was definitely flat .... We were hoping for some stuff that fell through the cracks," said spokesman Roger Peterson. Nevertheless, while the company "didn't have as good a year as we thought," he added that "on the last day a lot of stuff came through."

Recent business came from the Denton (Texas) Record-Chronicle (System/55 XR), the Nashville JOA (a large RISC system sale), the Singapore Straits Times (upgrade with RISC processor, news and classified pagination, with Page:db database), Australia's Canberra Times (RISC-based system with Interactive News Layout) and Oklahoma Publishing Co. (SCOOP centralized PostScript output control).

Peterson reported that the last two orders came in at the eleventh hour - Sept. 30, the last day of the firm's fiscal year.

For OPUBCO's move from text-and-rule pagination to full-page output using Macintoshes for images, Peterson said that the Mac/55 link to the Tandem is installed but not yet processing all graphics through INL. By October, SCOOP (E&P, June 20) had just been installed, and SII was "working to get the graphics portion on line so we can have complete output."

In the meantime, the Los Angeles Times delayed vendor selection for a new classified ad system. However, while the Times represents a large order, Peterson said that a decision would not have affected the fiscal year just passed, or even the next, in all probability.

All the same, the Times did get SII's fiscal '93 off to an early start three weeks later with $600,000 in other business during Europe's annual IFRA Congress and Exposition. The series of contracts included a link to its electronic news library system, expansion of its editorial system, and some consulting work.

While waiting like everyone else for some movement in the North American market, Peterson said SII sees more opening in Australia and Europe, both west and east (SII was invited to attend a conference of Polish newspaper publishers slated for last week).

It also established a relationship with a newspaper systems consultant in South Africa. "It looks pretty promising there," said Peterson.

Service central

The latest move by SII is to replace local subsidiaries' assistance with centralized customer service and support. …

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