Markus Schmidt and the Zap-O-Com story!
By Kim Haverblad - 9/05/2000
Our very first interview with one of many developers inside the OS2 community starts with Markus Schmidt, EmTec Innovative Software (Germany). The author of Zap-O-Com - or just shortly ZOC! One of many reason why I choose Markus to be the first interview "victim" is since ZOC is one of the few application that I have been using for so long that I can't really remember. And it's still developed and supported! I started to use version 1.x something of ZOC (current version out is 3.14). Back then ZOC was a pure terminal program. Over the years when the internet came and all the old Bulletin Boards System (BBS) was closed down or changed media from old direct modem connection to use telnet and httpd connections. Well, once again ZOC came to be handy - as Telnet- or 3270-client (speaking from my own use).
Q: Where are You located?
A: Fuerth, near Nuremberg (where the Nazi trials were) in Germany.
Q: What is Your occupation/profession?
A: Software developer. My company develops shareware, that's what I make a living from.
Q: What is Your family status?
Q: Describe Yourself in couple sentence for the readers?
A: I'm a 34 year old average guy with an interest in programming, stock markets, philosophy. I started using computers when I was 15 - back then the only available computers were at school and I skipped quite some classes to go the computer room instead. Right now I have my own company (together with a friend) and completing a project is still as great as it was back then when I wrote my first prime number generator on a Wang 2000. In my free time I also like to go swimming and love to drive my convertible.
Q: How long have you been using OS2 (version and year) and what version are You current using??
A: I have been using OS/2 since version 1.3 (don't remember the year) and I'm currently running Warp 4.
Q: Was this also the first operating system that You started to develop for?
A: No, my very first programs were written for the Commodore 64 and my first commercial program was developed on the Commodore Amiga. This was also a Terminal program and parts of it still live in ZOC.
Q: Was ZOC the first application that You manage to get out on the OS2 "market"?
A: Yes, the first and in fact the only one (well, we have another OS/2 product an ftp client but it was not developed by me.)
Q: Regarding EmTec as a company, when was this founded and by who?
A: It was founded by me (it is a one man company).
Q: What did You do before EmTec?
A: I was a computer trainer in a large software company.
Q: What is the future plans for EmTec as company and regarding developing for OS2?
A: We are mostly doing communication software for Windows. Regarding OS/2 we will keep ZOC up to date, because it's a multi platform source code, but we do not plan new products for OS/2.
Q: When did You start to make the NT version of ZOC?
A: We started in late 1995 and the port to multiplatform took about a year.
Q: Which OS to prefer to develop for?
A: Definitely Windows NT.
Q: Why do You prefer NT instead of OS2?
A: The reason for this is mostly the stability and the available tools. OS/2 doesn't really crash but it still happens that the WPS locks up and forces a reboot while the Windows NT taskmanager hardly ever fails to kill anything that hangs. Also, the Microsoft compiler and debugger are far superior to anything under OS/2 when it comes to speed and ease of use (especially the debugger is making a developers dream come true).
Q: What do you think are the most important factors for an OS/2 software to have commercial success?
A: Back when we started it was either important to have a product that exploited the special features of OS/2 (multitasking primarily) or that was alone on the market.
Q: How do you look to the market for OS/2 application, would You survive without the Windows market?
A: ZOC would definitely be dead without the Windows market. We currently sell less than 5% of our licenses for OS/2. I have the impression that people who are using OS/2 are either large companies that run OS/2 for historical reasons (like banks who have large IBM systems and bet a lot of money on OS/2) or enthusiasts.
Q: Piracy, is that a problem that You have? Has it any impact to EmTec as company?
A: We have the usual piracy problem. I don't count people who are using a shareware forever as piracy, but there are license codes posted on piracy sites and even key generators. It's a PITA but we've taken some countermeasures and so the problem is bearable.
Q: You have several application that You develop. Which of them is the most popular?
A: "ZOC" and our ISDN Telephony Program "Moony" (Windows only).
Q: Which of the applications do You feel most for?
A: Definitely ZOC because it has the longest history and because it allowed me to start my own company full time.
Q: What tools and utilities are You using during Your daily work?
A: For development IBM's Visual Age C++ for OS/2 and Microsoft's Visual Studio for Windows. Other OS/2 tools I like are PM-View, PM-Kill and Inimaint.
Q: Any new project in pipeline?
A: No currently not. We have more ideas than we can handle (mostly through user feedback) for the products we have.
Q: As hardware freak, I have to ask You what system You're using for Your development?
A: Nothing too advanced: Pentium II 400 with 128megs of memory and 8 Gig hard drive, 17" monitor, CD-Rom, etc.
Q: Any drivers to non supported hardware for OS2 that You are missing that You would like to see for OS2?
A: I recently changed video boards (I replaced my Matrox Millennium with a Voodo3 board) and had quite some problems to get it running under OS/2.
Q: What is Your favourite OS2 software?
A: I really like the way PM-View works. PM-Mail is also very nice.
Q: What application will you like to be made/ported for OS2?
A: A decent text processor and spreadsheet. Actually I do not really need it anymore because I'm doing that kind of stuff under Windows, but a few years ago I would have killed for MS Excel and MS Word for OS/2.
Q: Will You attend to Warpstock Europe this Year?
A: No, I guess not.
Q: ZOC is one of the nominated applications in the OS2 Award Event. What do You think about that?
A: I'm feeling honoured, really! When you have to compete with zillions of products in the Windows world you tend to forget the idea that your software could be something special. And Also I'm surprised that something un-hype'ish as a terminal software could make it into the nominees.
Q: Anyone in the OS2 community You think should get mentioned for excellent work?
A: Definitely! Thomas Bradford from BMT Micro. He me and hundreds of other developers to make actual money from their software and thus did a great service to the OS/2 community.
Q: Any others comments regarding the OS2 community?
A: I've never been really active in any kind of community but I still remember the thousands of encouraging and enthusiastic comments from OS/2 folks. This includes emails saying "I hope you make a fortune from this program". This is something that never happened with Windows users.
Q: And the final question: What is one of the first thing You do when You get up in the morning (checking mail, read the news paper etc.)?
A: Getting me a decent cup of coffee and check the stock markets on the internet.
Well, that's all for this time. I hope that Emtec will continue to develop ZOC for OS2 for a long time still! If You have any comments regarding this interview or anything that You want to share. Please feel free to make postings by using the online Forum. I also want to say good luck to Markus Schmidt in his development work with ZOC. I hope to see more from EmTec in the future! More info about ZOC can be found at EmTec's homepage.