LAST week's Software Exhibition '95 celebrated its 10th anniversary by showing that Hong Kong is by no means far behind Taiwan and Shenzhen when it comes to software development. Hong Kong is often accused of not being as good at software as Taiwan or Shenzhen. This may be true but it does not mean that there is nobody around who can write good software. The organisers themselves, the Hong Kong Productivity Council, are no mean programmers. They have a number of products on the market that range from Novell-DOS to Open Systems, all the way up to IBM's AS/400 series. The biggest product is a total garment system that controls everything from order processing to production and payroll. The system is called GM SYS/OPEN when it runs on UNIX and GM SYS/400 when it runs on an IBM AS/400. They have more than 30 customers, according to Lee Chun Keung, a consultant in the Computer Services Division. Mr Lee said: 'We developed the GM SYS/OPEN more than 10 years ago; it was the first thing we did.' They had between 10 and 20 programmers and a wide range of customers, said Mr Lee. The annual software exhibition is the one chance in the year when local software companies can show their work on a grand scale. The atmosphere was decidedly subdued and business-like, but that is what it is supposed to be. This means it was neither as boring as the typical personal computer show nor as exciting as a MacWorld show. Another software company displaying its wares at last week's show was ASM eTrade. It develops a trade management software package. The software runs on Windows and can generate a report overnight about late shipments and other important news to those following the shipping reports. It is a customised on-line catalogue of products if used properly. John Wan, ASM's marketing manager, said that they used Oracle 7 on the Windows platform. The programming, he said, was usually out-sourced. An event such as this was good in terms of promoting the company, but was not really where they shined. 'This event promotes the company, but seminars with business partners are more useful,' he said. Magic Computer Hong Kong Ltd is an interesting company not so much because of what it does but how it does it. Magic is a sophisticated platform that allows you to create complex programs. Once the program has been created, Magic will put it on any system. You can write your application for Windows and it will run, but you can also move it effortlessly to UNIX or some other platform with ease. The Magic programming environment comes from Israel but the applications that are written for the local market are all done in Hong Kong and are localised in both Chinese and English. The senior consultant at Magic, Raymond Yip, said: 'The Magic Accounting Series is aimed mainly at small to medium-sized offices.' With about 25 programmers on staff, Magic was able to handle a variety of projects. Some of those projects could be quite large. 'We developed a system for Amway in Guangzhou,' he said. Because of the way Magic works, the final platform on which the software will run is no great concern. 'We write the applications and the user can choose the platform,' he said. 'We can help the beginner or we can write taylor-made software.' Not everyone participating at the event was strictly speaking a software vendor. There was, for example, a company specialising in electronic data interchange, the EDi Shop. Company director John Sanders said the firm was there to promote electronic trade. 'We are concentrating on linking the customer here with his overseas partners,' he said. Mr Sanders was one of the only people who openly hoped that all attempts at Internet security would fail. Asked about the future of Internet security, he said: 'I hope it fails. The Internet is great because it is open, available and cheap. Anything you would be willing to fax or mail can be sent on the Internet. If, however, you have something you would rather courier, then you must use a system that is far safer than the Internet.' There was, of course, no shortage of Internet service providers (ISPs). One of the latest companies to join the swelling ranks of ISPs is Hong Kong Star Internet. Star Internet's marketing co-ordinator, Betty Fung, was enthusiastic about their service. 'The best thing we do is provide real speed. Our speed is what makes us different,' she said. Hong Kong Star Internet was chosen by Apple to help with its demonstration of eWorld at MacWorld Expo Hong Kong. At the present software exhibition, they are trying to show users how to make their own Web pages. For anyone wishing to join, Ms Fung said it would take two days to be up and running on the Internet.