The Customer is always Right
In bringing mass production techniques to the automotive industry, Henry Ford had to start by restricting the wide number of available options. Instead of the endless possibilities available at the time, Ford Model T options were commonly described by saying You can have it any color you want as long as its black. With time, the industry has become more competitive and customers more sophisticated. Having a single car color is no longer acceptable in todays market. Fortunately, high volume manufacturing techniques have progressed to the level where it is now feasible to provide a wide variety of options while still maintaining low production costs.
Something analogous is happening in todays computer industry. The high cost of moving software from one platform made many software vendors tell their customers that they could have their software on any operating system as long as it was MS Windows. But with tools like WM_MOTIF it is now feasible to penetrate new markets and still maintain development costs within budget.
Open Systems start with an Open Vision
Many software vendors do not take advantage of the potential of the UNIX market. In the rush of day to day software development it is easy to lose the perspective of fulfilling customer needs. As customers grow and their information processing needs become more complex, no single platform is likely to fulfill all of their requirements. A mix of PC LANs, UNIX systems and even some proprietary systems will be required to fulfill the needs of the large enterprise. Scaleable solutions allow them to grow as their businesses grow. By committing to platforms based on Open Systems, they are ensured of a smooth migration should they decide to switch vendors. If your software locks your customer to a single platform and the customer requires more diversity, they might need to look at your competitors for alternatives.
The WordPerfect division of Novell provides a true example of commitment towards fulfilling the needs of an enterprise. In the very competitive word processing platform, WordPerfect is the only vendor providing solutions to the needs of their customers across DOS, Windows, Macintosh, UNIX and even some proprietary systems. This allows them to compete very effectively when a company wants to make a long term commitment towards training their personnel on document preparation and office automation.
One basic rule of marketing is that the more people that can buy your product, the more likely your revenue will increase. Make sure that you identify the needs of your customers before it is too late.
A Million new Prospects a year cant be all Wrong
The UNIX market is not small by many standards. A recent Dataquest reporestimates the UNIX market for hardware and software at over $ 19.6 billion during 1993 growing at a yearly rate of 11.6 %. That report ranks these companies as leaders in this market in terms of revenue:
Since these vendors make significant revenues on their UNIX hardware and software lines, they are constantly looking for software solutions that will help them pursue new markets. In their vested efforts to sell their hardware or operating systems, these vendors can promote your software to their customers, becoming an extension of your marketing efforts. Appendix A lists some of the developer programs available from these UNIX vendors to promote software ports to their platforms.
The market is also significant in terms of unit sales. During 1995, over 1 million new UNIX licenses will be sold. The Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) is expected to ship over 200,000 licenses of SCO UNIX on Intel x86 platforms and gross over $ 180 million of UNIX software sales. Sun will ship over 120,000 Solaris/UNIX licenses on the SPARC and Intel platforms. In fact, in the time it will take you to read this document, over 200 new UNIX systems will be installed!
All this activity in the UNIX market is generating increased needs for application software. From development tools to office automation software, from databases to spreadsheets, the UNIX software market is open to new and innovative solutions. For a well-managed product, software margins can be much more attractive than in the PC LAN market.
Client/Server offers Real Benefits
With the propagation of high end PCs, it is more common to see network architectures that attempt to distribute computing resources among different nodes of a network. A well-designed network where servers use and manage major resources efficiently can greatly reduce network traffic. Take the classical example of an SQL database on a transaction oriented application. Without a client/server architecture even simple operations such as indexing or querying the database can increase network traffic and degrade performance for all users. With a properly implemented SQL server, most of the indexing or query can occur on the servers node with only the results going back to the client node. This can reduce traffic and therefore increase performance more than ten-fold in many cases. For many years, UNIX has been known as an ideal environment for robust database servers offering a high degree of network functionality with its TCP/IP, sockets, RPC and NFS libraries. The X Window system itself is implemented with a client/server architecture. All of this makes UNIX much more feasible for implementing distributed computing across a network than what would be required with other operating systems.
High end PCs are becoming the ideal client in this scenario of distributed computing. For years UNIX vendors were in a constant struggle for the client market with the PC operating systems. Most now have reached a stage where they have realized that their long term success is in a large way dependent on their ability to integrate PC clients to their networks. Companies that take advantage of these heterogeneous network architectures with PCs and UNIX systems acting as clients and servers can offer their customers much more scaleability and functionality.