The New Frontier

As the Editorial Director of Windows NT Magazine, I get to talk to lots of vendors about the impact Windows NT is having on the strategic direction of their organizations.

Even though Windows NT has just started to take off, there are already more database servers, client/server accounting systems, and Web servers available for NT than for any other platform. The price/performance and architecture of Windows NT create an ideal environment for client/server and high-end workstation applications. While all of this is good news for you and me, it presents some serious marketing and distribution challenges for vendors competing on this new frontier.

One question I like to ask a high-end Solution Provider is, "Will you price the NT version of your product the same as the UNIX version?" With rare exception, the answer has been "Yes" The unspoken fear is that Windows NT will erode the margins on the UNIX versions of their software. For example, Sybase keeps the UNIX and NT database prices in synch. Unfortunately, this puts Sybase's NT product at three times the price of Microsoft SQL Server. When asked, "Will you compete with Microsoft SQL Server head on?" they answer, "If UNIX is already present in the organization, we will compete and do quite well. If the company is an NT-only shop, we will walk away." So why create a Windows NT version in the first place? Because their customers demand it. However, even though the software is priced the same, the hardware it runs on is more affordable. As hardware increases in performance, Windows NT will push further into UNIX's enterprise territory.

Another question I ask is, "Will you sell the NT version differently?" Again, the answer is "Yes' In the client/server accounting arena, both Dun & Bradstreet Financials and CA-Masterpiece are moving away from direct sales only to build a channel of solution partners. This is a radical departure from their current sales process but is necessary to service this market. On the lower end, companies such as Great Plains and SBT, that already have thousands of VARS, estimate that only a small percentage of the existing partners will be able to take their software into the client/server realm. For the first time, we'll start seeing vendors that never competed against each other going after this expanding market.

The same thing is happening on the workstation side. Companies such as Intergraph have moved their entire UNIX-based suite of applications to Windows NT. CAD vendors that have ported to NT can compete with Sun, HP, and SGI with solutions at half the price. In the high-volume market CAD vendors like AutoDesk can offer their AutoCAD customers (who are mostly DOS-based) an opportunity to blow the performance roof off by running on an NT/Alpha combination (Windows NT Magazine will cover this combination in a future review).

Windows NT promises the best of both worlds-in features, support price, user inter-face, security, stability, ease of use, and more. For the future, all roads lead to Windows NT!