Windows 95 to Force Fed Upgrades
n The much-anticipated Windows 95 will spawn opportunities and opposition for applications developers
An array of smaller, and more savvy players in the PC business -- particularly software applications developers and integrators -- are relying on Microsoft's latest operating system to help them create new markets. This is especially true for those companies serving federal clients with huge networks.
"Windows 95 orphans almost every important Windows application," says Bruce Barrington, chairman of TopSpeed Corp., Pompano Beach, Fla., a maker of software application development tools. "But you can't make money writing easy programs."
A significant technical opportunity for systems integrators lies in the fact that Windows 95 is written in a different programming language -- object linking and embedding, or OLE -- than its predecessors. Every application written with Visual Basic will have to be revamped.
TopSpeed, whose products are used by independent software developers as well as Fortune 500 corporations, a year ago began preparing for the transition, and developed a new version of its primary product, Clarion for Windows 1.5, for use with the new Microsoft product. The software enables developers to compile any application in a 32-bit format, as required for Win95, or in a 16-bit format, found in earlier Windows and DOS programs.," says Barrington.
Bob Wolf, president of Sheridan Software Systems, Melville, N.Y., an applications development software publisher, agrees. "People are awaiting the development environment to break after Windows 95 is introduced on Aug. 24. Those who make and use software will need a variety of applications development tools for Windows 95. It is a great marketing opportunity."
The company's product, VBAssist, is used by Chase Manhattan, Bankers Trust, Merrill Lynch, and payroll processor ADP. "It may be even easier to design products using the OLE method than VBX [Visual Basic]," says Wolf. "You can write them much more quickly than with VBX. "
An unheralded alliance between Microsoft and Texas Instruments Software Division provides further clues to the profit-making opportunities surrounding Windows 95. This is an emerging area called "throw-away software."
According to J.R. McClendon, president of TI's software unit, Microsoft and TI are developing a product that would serve as a large, central library where software reusable components are contained.
The information systems group would be in charge of that library. They would populate this library with components from a variety of sources, and make the library available to software developers from all over a company, says McClendon.
"You make it easy for those departmental developers to browse that library, and to select components that they may want to use. That enables integration of those components. And it gives them tremendous power to develop meaningful information systems for their department in a short time. There is no question that there is a huge unfulfilled need for a dramatic breakthrough in how we provision information systems to an enterprise today," says McClendon.
"Today, in most enterprises it [takes] 12 to 15 months to develop the information systems that are needed. We... need throw-away kinds of systems. Component-based development might do that. Information systems that can be used for six months, thrown away, and a new one can be developed. With Microsoft, we have defined this framework," he says.
Other software and hardware sales -- in addition to application development tools -- are inevitable with Windows 95 as well, meaning profits for systems integrators, according to sources surveyed by Washington Technology.
Windows 95 was designed with the much-anticipated plug and play feature. The system automatically identifies new components, allocates resource systems and loads appropriate drivers.
For instance, a Hewlett-Packard laser jet printer connected to a PC will be configured automatically, making PCs even easier to use than a Macintosh.
Microsoft has reached alliances with more than 250 software and hardware vendors to make their hardware and software compatible with Win95, including 3COM Corp. for networking; NEC Corp. for displays; Hayes Microcomputer Corp. and Motorola for modems; Panasonic and Sony for CD-ROM systems, as well as Compaq, Dell, Gateway, Micron and Packard Bell.
"A broader audience of consumers will benefit from more versatile and easier-to-use products, and manufacturers will enjoy an expanded market," says Brad Silverberg, senior vice president of the personal systems division at Microsoft.
A report from the Gartner Group indicates that the total cost of PC ownership will decline for users employing Windows 95.
"At $840 per user per year, end-user operations costs are 18 percent lower in the Windows 95 environment than they are in the Windows 3.x environment," says the study. "This constitutes savings of $2.1 million in a 2,500-user model."
Robert Guarldi, president of Valinor Inc., considers Win95, an opportunity, not a threat to his business.
Guarldi and others, however, view Windows 95 as a chance to sell a variety of new services, software and technologies to the DOS and Windows client base.
Still, though applications developers and systems integrators may profit from Windows 95, customers upgrading to the system will find that most of their applications will have to be rewritten.. How great a deal that is for government agencies, and the American taxpayer, remains an open question.