Brooktrouts December announcement of RealComm 100 marks the first concrete emergence of a non-Dialogic player on the standards-based open communications server playing field. RealComm 100 is an ECTF S.100 R2 communications server implementation that puts Brooktrout hardware under an H.100/H.110 API, and couples it to a clever management interface and some smoothly-engineered operating system components, aimed at making it easier for S.100 developers to build distributed, scaleable applications on farms of network-linked servers.
Its interesting to note how Brooktrout announced the product. First (on November 22), they announced demonstrable H.100/H.110 hardware compatibility a major software win that, in and of itself, purported to make Brooktrout competitive with Dialogic as an underlying hardware vendor for standards-based communications server products, simultaneously reassuring Brooktrouts own loyal customers that regardless of current plans they (and in turn, their customers) wouldnt be left out of whats looking like the Next Big Thing in CT. On December 8, two weeks later, they announced RealComm 100 of necessity, a more experimental product, a crucial value-add, and a new direction for the company.
By so doing, Brooktrout has simultaneously reaffirmed its position as one of the CT industrys most innovative (and customer-responsive) hardware vendors, and has visibly embraced the two most important drivers of converging communications open standards/commoditization of the platform and the transition from hardware to software as the domain of uniqueness and value. In light of Microsofts recent retrenchment in this area (see CommFusion, page 162), were especially glad that Brooktrout has chosen this moment to make its direction clear and doubly glad theyve elected to do so in a fashion that promotes standards, rather than adding to market confusion (as a competing Microsoft offering would almost certainly have done.) It also underscores the point that standards still tend to proceed from a hardware bias, and that hardware vendors willing to assume the risks of compliance and redefine themselves are in the best position to influence and reinforce true standards both by insuring that hardware (and, more to the point, low-level software and APIs) conform to the standard, and by influencing a mass of loyal platform customers to consider new options.
Brooktrouts RealComm 100 SDK is now available to select early-adopter partners; theyre planning to proceed to general availability in the March timeframe, and will make the SDK downloadable from their website (www.brooktrout.com). Well follow up with a hands-on evaluation in fairly short order.
GATES STEPS DOWN, GOES BACK TO ROOTS
On January 13, just as this issue went to press, Bill Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft Corporation, ending the era of his stewardship over the company most-closely identified with the personal computer revolution. So far, investors have reacted positively: Though stock values went down slightly in after-hours trading (the annoucement was judiciously made after market-close), they bounced back the next business day, as latent demand was satisfied.
Gates will remain as chairman, but he also plans to assume a new role as Microsofts chief software architect. This news will doubtless make some pundits sneer: Gates hasnt written software in years, and (perhaps biased) renditions of the Microsoft Story have cast Gates more as an opportunist than a true innovator. He cant really be serious, can he? Isnt this just a sinecure? Bill Gates Emeritus?
I dont think so. In fact, I think Gates will thrive in his new role, and help lead Microsoft into a new century whose focus is mobile, IP-enabled, communications-oriented devices. How do I know hes competent to do so? Because he did it before. Nineteen years ago in the last MS software project that Gates managed directly he and a small team hacked together (in 6809 assembler, no less) a complete OS and integrated applications suite for the TRS-80 Model 100 notebook computer. For its time, the TRS-80 M100 was nothing short of revolutionary: all the apps a mobile worker needed (text editor, terminal program, file transfer, database, Basic interpreter, etc.), all menu-accessible, all interoperating, on an appliance-like platform that ran for weeks on four AA batteries. Last night, I pulled my old Model 100 out of the attic, inserted four AA cells, turned it on (yes, it still works!), and contemplated the home truth that almost twenty years ago, Bill Gates and his colleagues built something wonderful; antecedent to the Palm, the Cassiopeia, the WAP-enabled cell phone, and similar devices, and prefiguring most (if not all) their core innovations.