Coalition to try to make PC conferencing...

Coalition to try to make PC conferencing easier

An industry coalition formed last week will work on standards to allow personal computer users to work in real time with colleagues down the hall or across the country.


The group, led by Intel Corp., is combining computer and communications expertise to make possible video conferencing and collaboration on documents, using a variety of PCs, data networking methods and software applications.

The first commercial products, Intel says, could appear before the end of the year.


It's a task that requires advances in several areas. Lotus Development Corp., Software Publishing Corp. and WordPerfect Corp. are working on adding conferencing capability to PC software applications. AT&T;, Ericsson Business Networks AB and Northern Telecom will look at communications and infrastructure issues.

Novell Inc. will add networking skills, and Compaq Computer Corp. will contribute work on adapting PCs and users to the new techniques. And Compression Labs Inc., PictureTel Corp., VTEL and VideoServer will all contribute to overcoming problems with sending images over narrow pipelines.

"We expect the convergence of the communications and computer industries to produce a gigantic new industry," said Patrick Gelsinger, vice president and general manager of Intel's Personal Conferencing Division. "Personal conferencing is the first example of this convergence and extends PC capability into real-time communications."

Sun Microsystems unit protests NSA decision

A unit of Sun Microsystems Inc. is protesting to the General Accounting Office the decision of the Fort Meade-based National Security Agency to change terms of a contract Sun originally won last summer.

The protest, announced last week, concerns an NSA contract known as High-Performance Workstation II, an indefinite-quantity contract that reportedly could bring Sun up to $200 million in business over the next several years.

According to John F. Leahy III, a group manager for Sun Microsystems Federal Inc., the unit had worked with Unisys Corp. on the first phase of the workstation project, then bid against several other companies on the second phase, winning the contract June 9. It began deliveries soon afterward.

But after competitors IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Silicon Graphics Inc. objected to the way Sun had used testing data in its bid, NSA suspended the contract July 30, later modifying the terms and seeking revised bids, which were due Dec. 22.


NB "The federal acquisition regulations are very clear, that when

you have a substantial change to a procurement, you have to cancel the original procurement and start over," Mr. Leahy said. Also, he said, the losers have gained an unfair advantage because they were briefed on details of the winning proposal, including pricing, while Sun remains ignorant of the details of their bids.

The GAO should respond within 90 days with its findings and recommendations on the contract, although it has no enforcement power, Mr. Leahy said.

As with all NSA purchases, the details of the contract are classified. But $200 million could buy 8,000 to 10,000 high-powered workstations at today's prices, suitable for tasks like graphic analysis.

Computer Sciences wins $49 million pact

Computer Sciences Corp. has won a $49 million, five-year contract that will continue to keep workers at its System Sciences Division in Seabrook busy supporting NASA projects such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the Earth Observing System and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite.


The subcontract from McDonnell Douglas Space Systems Co., for support of the Goddard Space Flight Center's Flight Project Directorate, comes on top of the five years CSC has already worked for Goddard, according to a spokeswoman at the company's El Segundo, Calif., headquarters -- meaning no additional jobs.

The 150 engineers, computer specialists and support technicians are involved primarily with ground station support, such as communicating with spacecraft, tracking them, and recording and interpreting data.

Local firm breaks into Japan's market

Hughes Network Systems of Germantown says it's the first foreign supplier of satellite equipment to break into the Japanese market, with its selection to provide gear for a network linking the 201 stores and warehouses of one of the country's largest retailers.

Hughes will provide earth stations that will transmit over the Hughes-built JCSat satellite to a central hub designed and operated by Fujitsu Ltd. The network will support both data and voice traffic.

Hughes, which is part of GM Hughes Electronics, said the deal is worth $9.5 million.


Dr. Ruth makes it to compact disc

What better sign of the times than Dr. Ruth on CD? Philips Media said last week that it's releasing Dr. Ruth Westheimer's "Encyclopedia of Sex" in its CD-i format.

Philips said the disc will be its first program developed chiefly for the school market.