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Although the size of its commercial system user base can't compare with the historical numbers of Quadrex (more than 900 at one time), Penta (500-600 at its peak) and Alphatype (perhaps more than 300 several years ago), judged on the basis of current growth, Miles 33 probably is the shining light of this market. With 63 sites in North America and 122 in Europe, Miles is growing at a time when its competitors are shrinking.
It is no secret that many commercial system users are badly in need of an upgrade. The question they face is where to go to find one: to their original supplier, to another supplier of commercial-quality systems, or to the desktop systems that cost much less but fall short in certain areas of functionality. Miles appears to be benefiting from users in the middle category--those that want to stay with a commercial system but are of a mood to switch vendors.
We talked with eight current customers and two former customers to see how they felt about the Miles equipment they have been using and about the company with which they have been dealing. Most of them were quite open in their comments, glad to talk about all aspects of their needs and their systems.
In general, these customers expressed real respect for Don Sullivan (the president of Miles 33's U.S. operation), for Miles as a company, and for their equipment.
One of the factors most people mentioned was the speed of Oasys on the Sun platform, partly in comparison with the antiquated systems to which they had been accustomed previously. It obviously isn't fair to compare Oasys on a magnificent Sparcstation with Penta on an old Data General computer under RDOS, or one of the old Quadex systems or a Compugraphic MCS, as some of these people did.
We presume that when they purchased their systems, they evaluated the competitive products available at the time. However, most of them wouldn't have been able to compare it with some of the latest systems, such as Penta's Aviion product. In any event, Miles should be given credit for its wise choice of platforms. And its users' comments should be taken as testimonials to the performance they get from the combined hardware/software systems they are using.
We won't try to provide a complete description of everything each of these customers is doing, but we will mention the highlights--what they like about the system, what they would like to change and where they got their perspectives.
Boston University. Paula Betts described how Boston University had switched almost overnight from a Bedford system to an Oasys with a Sun server, a Sparcstation 1 workstation and two Finch terminals. Output is to a Linotronic 300 (currently Cora, later to be PostScript) and Tegra XM72 and XP1000 units.
The university has both batch and interactive page makeup programs, but only the batch is being used for live work. The production staff is small, as is the workload, but it handles about a book a week, ranging from 24 to 460 pages.
Some of the work involves publishing university commencement books from a …