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Boston Attorney Seeks Nationwide Coalition Of Computer Users

May 20, 1988

BOSTON (AP) _ Facing an apparent trend toward unified standards among computer giants, a Boston attorney is seeking to organize a nationwide coalition representing up to 20,000 corporate computer users to call attention to their needs.

Peter Marx, head counsel for a group of customers of Data General Corp., said he plans a meeting Monday in Boston with representatives of at least a dozen similar groups connected to other computer firms, including International Business Machines Corp., Digital Equipment Corp. and NCR Corp.

The proposed coalition of user groups would establish a stronger voice and greater clout for users concerning development of new software systems, said Marx. It also would serve as a liaison between the computer users and the public and Congress, he said.

A user group is an umbrella organization composed of companies using the same type of computer system. The members generally use the group to share information and express concerns to individual manufacturers.

″You look at the articles written about the computer industry and there is hardly any mention of users, and users are what it is all about,″ said Marx, who also serves as counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based Information Industry Association and chairman of the New England Computer Law Forum in Boston.

″There is no voice now for the users. There are some years of chaos ahead until this issue of a standard operating system is settled. It’s time the users should be united.″

On Tuesday, four American and three European computers announced formation of a joint $90 million project to create a software package modeled after the Unix operating system by American Telephone & Telegraph. Unix, which controls the basic operation of a computer, has been sought by non-AT&T customers because it allows computers from different manufacturers to use the same programs.

″If we’re moving in the direction of a standard, then it’s vital we make our presence known,″ said Marx. ″It would be too costly to have a system we can’t live with. Leverage is important.″

Others agreeing to attend the Monday meeting include representatives of the user groups for Honeywell Bull Inc., Prime Computer Inc., Xerox Corp. and Wang Laboratories Inc. Marx would not name the other user groups planning to attend the meeting.

Several computer industry analysts question the feasibility of a nationwide coalition of user groups.

″It would be noble cause, but I’m pretty skeptical it could succeed because there are too many vested interests among the users,″ said Robert Djurdjevic, president of Annex Research Inc. in Phoenix, Ariz.

″On the other hand,″ he said, ″there is a strong need for the user to speak in unison rather than be led by vendor interest. Users have generally been meek and mild and non-confrontational, and this has actually hurt them right in the pocketbooks.″

Michael Geran, an analyst at Nikko Securities Co. International Inc. in New York, said the push toward connectivity among different computer systems could unite users in the future, but the variety of needs may pull apart the proposed coalition.

″What’s good for one user is not good for another at this point,″ said Geran. ″It seems there are just too many applications and needs to unite the users.″

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