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Something for MPE at Apple's App Store

About 10 days ago, the Australian software company Turbosoft announced that it had unveiled an iPad app that will emulate HP 3000 terminals. While the functionality of TTerm Pro is being reviewed for our August printed issue, we can review the costs of delivering a 3000 terminal interface to the world's most-purchased tablet.

Art Haddad made the first mention of TTerm on the HP 3000 Community group of LinkedIn. Turbosoft wasn't on my radar for MPE-ready software, but I can't even pretend to know every product. This one has been on offer for 3000s for about 20 years.

TTerm definitely supports Telnet connections, and the [HP 3000] emulations are complete. Turbosoft has been developing terminal emulation software since 1986 and the HP series of terminals has been in its Windows-based products from the early 1990s. The main feature that our Windows products have over the iPad range is NS-VT support, as well as scripting. However, there is a plan to add NS-VT support to TTerm Pro in the not too distant future.

TTermProConnectionsHaddad, who works from Australia but actually takes calls in North American West Coast time (that's an early workday there) also gave us a peek at what it's like to sell on the Apple App Store. TTerm was already evolving when we talked last week, but that improved version was going to take a few more weeks of review time before Apple would sell it. Apple's system would then notify a user who'd bought the app a newer version could be downloaded.

Somehow, Apple has turned around the usual software formula: now sales and delivery has been made to lag behind development. This situation might serve to explain a little about the $49.95 price for the app. It only seems pricey until a 3000 manager goes to look for another terminal emulator app -- on any tablet. Not just Apple's.

There is no other HP 3000 terminal app for an iPad, although there are a number of telnet 'terminal' programs that can log on to a 3000. Haddad's company took the challenge of bringing a multiple-terminal emulator through the Apple iOS development rigors, as well as getting it sold in the only place you can buy an iOS app. That's a vendor-controlled store. On August 16, a US court threw out a lawsuit against Apple, one that claimed the vendor should not limit iOS customers to buying apps through the App Store.

Haddad has nothing to do with the lawsuit, but he did comment on how the Windows version of TTerm Pro gave his company no advantage in creating an iOS release.

"We've been developing the app for what feels like forever," he said. "We've spent a lot on it. Apple is not the easiest company to develop software for. With Apple we pretty much had to start from scratch. They're very firm about that. You can't take the code that you're got and put it onto an iPad. It's just not possible."

In the summer of 2010 we reported on another terminal emulator that was going to appear on the iPad, but that project didn't come to fruition. Haddad's insight -- like confirming that it's between two and three weeks from release to Apple to the update availability -- shows how tough some apps can be to craft. 

About the only other software developer in the MPE community who's shown the stamina to release an iOS app is Allegro Consultants. Its iAdmin app is coupled with a backend service to track crucial system data like CPU use and disk capacity, among other markers.

In addition to its 2392, 700/94 and 700/92 emulation, TTerm Pro emulates terminals from 20 other vendors. Some of these vendors have not shipped systems in two decades: Stratus, Siemens Nixdorf and Televideo come up on the supported terminals list.

LouisC.KThis is an iPad version of a $125 Windows 7 product, so perhaps this app is not as pricey as it might seem compared to a 99-cent Angry Birds, or even the top-notch PDF reader, annotator, and filer GoodReader selling at $4.99. It's a similar situation that Stromasys is tackling with its HP 3000 hardware virtualizer, Charon HPA/3000. Just like Louis C.K. jokes in his comedy routine about in-flight WiFi, the miracle for these products is getting overlooked by our altered reality about software value. (Warning for those new to Louis C.K.: link NSFW.)

This value issue is also the dilemma the HP 3000 faced at Hewlett-Packard, once commodity systems entered the price list. Lowering a price can be a way to lower the perception of value. HP took holding up its pricing to an extreme that flattened customer base growth. But like getting an iOS program written and updated in the App Store, keeping a 3000's value in line with 2013 expectations is tricky. Until you hear Louis C.K. shout about magic we overlook -- having a 40-year-old OS built well enough to continue running companies today, firms that might want to use the system via an iPad.

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