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CA offers peek at next Unicenter

The company kicks off its annual user conference with a sneak preview of forthcoming capabilities being built into its software cash cow.

NEW ORLEANS--Computer Associates kicked off its annual user conference with a sneak preview of forthcoming capabilities being built into its software cash cow.

Chairman and CEO Charles Wang welcomed more than 25,000 devotees to CA's annual user conference by making a case for how technology can directly impact company revenues, and by unveiling new features of the next release of Unicenter, dubbed TND for The Next Dimension. The current version is known as TNG, or The Next Generation.

The company is flying high after last week's announcement that CA would soon announce final results for the year that would beat analyst estimates and mark an 18 percent increase over the previous year. CA specializes in management tools, business applications, and database management and software development systems for large companies.

"It's not just technology for technology's sake," Wang told the crowd, echoing a common theme among high-tech executives these days. "We're developing all of these solutions so you can really enable your business."

CA World '98 attendees were given a first glimpse at new capabilities for Unicenter that offer a time element to network views as well as a new "Smart Magnifying Glass" feature that will allow an administrator to drill down on a particular network problem.

The new "Time Machine Control Panel" will allow an administrator to retrace the steps that have brought a network to its current point and provides that worker with forward views of where future trouble spots may occur, all done via an interface that continues the firm's video game-style motif. Unicenter TND will likely be version 3.0 of the software suite, but Wang said some elements of the new functions will soon be added to the current TNG version.

Wang also said the firm will launch a new strategy called "harmony" this week as a way to sell packages based on the company's Ingres relational database, Opal development tools, and Jasmine object-oriented multimedia database. The company will also address management of workgroup business environments, a market CA has previously targeted via partnerships.

In a curious program note, Wang entered the packed hall after a symphony orchestra and a series of dancers, dressed to signify different cultures, warmed the crowd up with several minutes of choreographed moves and a song sung by a five-year-old girl.

"For a slight fee, we also do bar mitzvahs and weddings," Wang quiped. The performers returned to close the evening's festivities after Wang's speech.

The conference continues through the week, highlighted by keynotes from Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, Compaq Computer chief Eckhard Pfeiffer, and former British prime minister John Major.