The IT Time Travel Machine: 1992: Page 2

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Datamation’s Products of the Year: 1992

Each year, Datamation asked over 1,000 technology managers to select their Products of the Year choices in a variety of categories. Voting was slow: managers had to mail in their responses via the U.S. Postal Service. This meant readers had to wait until February 1993 to learn the top picks for 1992. Life moved at a leisurely pace back then.

And the winners for Datamation’s 1992 Products of the Year were:

PCs & Workstations:

First Place: IBM RS/6000 POWERstation 220

Second Place: Dell Powerline 450 DE

Third Place: Compaq Deskpro 50M

As of 2006, you can buy a 1992-vintage POWERstation 220 on eBay for around $200. But in its day, the 220 was quite the hot rod. It zipped along at 33 MHz, sported a 1.44 MB floppy drive, and included a video controller that could handle 256 colors at a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels.


First Place: Apple PowerBook 170

Second Place: Dell 325 NC

Third Place: Compaq LTE Lite 25 model 60

Although Apple’s laptop won top honors in ‘92, the company soon suffered a major setback. It had filed a lawsuit against Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, alleging that the Windows GUI was essentially a copy of the Mac GUI, but the court ruled against Apple in 1992 and again in 1993. Apple’s market share, already slipping, began a rapid descent.

PC Software:

First Place: IBM OS/2 2.0

Second Place: Microsoft Windows 3.1

Third Place: Microsoft Excel 4.0

While many users felt that OS/2 was a superior operating system to Windows (Datamation readers apparently loved it) it was consigned to failure. Big Blue developed it with an eye toward the corporate market, focusing far less on the home market. OS/2 wasn’t game friendly and wasn’t fully DOS compatible – two of Windows’s strengths. In short, IBM wasn’t catering to the larger market.

Although IBM released OS/2 2.0 the same year that Microsoft released Windows 3.1, Windows sold almost ten times as many units as OS/2 in 1992.

The failure of IBM’s proprietary OS is a cautionary tale for IT managers: even if you put out a quality product, you can still tumble into the dustbin of tech history. (Hint: a technology's success is determined more by market forces than by its inherent quality.)

Large System Software:

First Place: IBM DB2 2.3

Second Place: Oracle CASE 5.0

Third Place: SAS System for Information Delivery 6.07

Who says technology changes? IBM and Oracle were fierce competitors in the database market in 1992, and they continue to be in 2006. (Actually, while IBM’s DB2 product is a database, Oracle’s CASE was a design tool for databases and other applications – the products weren’t direct competitors.)

But although some of the players are the same, the database world has changed radically since 1992. Among the many changes: Oracle is now the top vendor. According to 2006 figures from Gartner Dataquest, the market share of overall vendor revenues from database products (including support as well as license fees) are as follows: Oracle: 41.3%, IBM: 24.9%, Microsoft: 15.7%.

A still larger change – destined to shape the future of data storage – is the rise of the open source database, led by Ingress, MySQL and Postgres. In terms of revenue, "If you look at relational databases, open source vendors account for only .7%," says Gartner analyst Donald Feinberg. (Feinberg, by the way, fondly recalls reading Datatmation in the late 1960s.)

But this small revenue percentage must be put in context, he says. “There’s not a lot of people using open source – yet – in production” he says. But the revenue growth in open source databases from 2004 to 2005 was 47%, he points out. Moreover, “I expect the same type of percentages to continue, because more and more people are using them as they get more mature.”

On a side note, Feinberg recalls that a big database in 1992 might have been 200 GB – and such a whopping data load required an IBM mainframe to handle it. Now, of course, many desktop hard drives more hold 200 GB.

Next page: Network hardware, software, and mainframes

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