A bit of Jazz an upbeat note at trade show

The Lotus Development Corporation has unveiled a software package that is music to Apple's ears. ''Jazz,'' a multifunctional business software package designed for the Apple 512K Macintosh, brightened a somewhat uneventful Comdex computer show and appeared to bolster Apple Computer in the face of stiff industry competition - especially from arch-rival IBM.

Although it is a business package, Jazz, which will be released next March, is designed to appeal to what Apple chairman Steve Jobs calls the ''Fortune Five Million.'' This focus on the relatively unsophisticated user is in tune with the Mac's easy-to-use, icon-based (pictures on the screen) system.

As in a jazz band, the instruments in the package are capable of both solo work and sweet harmony. Information can quickly be shared among the data-base, word-processing, worksheet, communications, and graphics applications. It is the ''hot view'' feature, however, that distinguishes Jazz from Symphony, Framework, and similar integrated, ''window-ing'' packages. This innovation allows a user to transfer information from, for instance, a spreadsheet to a report; change a figure in the spreadsheet; and have that change reflected immediately in the report.

Industry analysts think this software package could aid Apple's ability to survive in an industry in the incipient stage of a shakeout. The Macintosh, a powerful 32-bit computer, has been bucking two serious drawbacks its first year on the market: a dearth of software and an image of recreational use only. If one software package can save the Mac - and thus Apple - on both counts, it could be Jazz.

''Jazz will do for the Mac what '1-2-3' did for the IBM PC and what VisiCalc did for Apple,'' predicts David Blumstein, executive vice-president of Softsel, the largest Lotus distributor in the nation.

While industry experts agree that Jazz lends credibility to the Macintosh as a business computer, perhaps equally important is the credibility that Lotus itself lends Apple. ''Jazz is actually better news for Apple than for Lotus. Apple needed this,'' says Esther Dyson, president of EDventure Holdings Inc., an industry consulting firm. ''It's just too bad they couldn't have named it quintet or something,'' she remarks. ''Apple is trying so hard to look businesslike.''

Jazz was not commissioned by Apple, but the two companies have developed a close relationship in manufacturing and marketing. The name promises to provide advertising fodder: A film previewed during Comdex featured a snappy jazz band with musicians playing everything from database to keyboard.

''This will be the best product for the Mac in a long, long time,'' Jobs predicts. ''When something great comes out, it sets the standard. Nothing not as good can come out.''

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.