Archive: September 1997 — The end of Impulse

Mobile computing has emerged as a rare bright spot amid sluggish PC sales this year, but six years ago a Canadian notebook firm found itself dragged into red ink by its parent company.

Almost two years to the day that it was purchased by Luminart, Mississauga, Ont.-based Impulse Computer

Corp. said it would be closing its doors for good.

Originally launched in 1994, Impulse had hoped to grow aggressively with Luminart’s backing. Officials told CDN the firm would grow its product line and expand its service and support infrastructure.

Rumours that the notebooks could spontaneously catch fire and increased competition made it tough for Impulse to make much headway, however. A repair centre took over the Impulse inventory and the company’s receivables.

Michael Cowpland has always been savvy about generating his own press, but he was left with a lot of explaining to do when industry rumours spread that Corel was dropping the Java platform from its suite of desktop applications.

The Ottawa-based firm held a press conference in the early part of September 19997 where Cowpland, along with other Corel senior executives, outlined a plan called CorelCentral which took many of the features of Corel’s earlier Office for Java in component form. CorelCentral also added groupware and communications functions for enterprise environments. Some of the features included were a universal in-box, the ability to assign and manage tasks, and workflow monitoring.

“”I guess the headline writers were looking for some kind of hook by saying we were dropping Java,”” Cowpland said by way of explanation to CDN. Java, he said, was key to the company’s network computer, or NC strategy by which thin clients handled much of the day-to-day application load.

Corel later sold off the hardware side of its NC project, NetWinder, to Hardware Computing Canada, which in turn morphed into After poor sales, shut down in 2001.

Microsoft is well known for its fight against software piracy, but in 1997 it began its work in earnest when it began suing resellers over server software theft. The problem seemed to get worse as Windows NT became more popular, according to Microsoft executives at the time


Microsoft said it focused on the corporate market because going after home users just wasn’t viable. “”We can’t take 42 per cent of (home PC users) to court,”” one said.

Microsoft now prefers to work more closely with the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft, which has come under criticism for the way it puts its statistics together. That doesn’t mean Microsoft’s fight hasn’t been successful, however. In May marketing firm FSA Group paid out the largest settlement to date, at $175,000.

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