LETTERS

P> OOPs
In your March 7 issue, "Yahoo! Not Just for Yahoos," states the name Yahoo "was pilfered from Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Gulliver's Travels'...."
Correction, "Gulliver's Travels" was written by Jonathan Swift. Otherwise, good article, and good trade paper. I probably get more usable information from your publication than several others combined. Thanks for a useful pub.

Andrew Lefton
Andrew.Lefton@ix16.ix.
netcom.com

Editor's note: That clearly was not too Swift of us.

WT Online's Publication Schedule
I really enjoyed your Jan. 11 issue. Especially like the article about Paracel. When is the next issue going to be put up? And how often does it regularly appear? Thanks in advance.

Anise Wallace
A. C. Wallace & Co. LLC
London, U.K.
augusta@mail.bogo.co.uk

Editor's Note: Washington Technology publishes its newspaper twice a month on Thursdays. The paper goes on-line one to two days later at http:// www.wtonline.com/wtonline.

Readers Suggest Venture Capital Ideas
I saw the new expanded coverage of the venture capital industry and thought I would give you some comments.
As one of the first firms to assess the growth potential of the metropolitan Washington, D.C., market back in 1987 (investing in BDS, later acquired by BTG) and one of the first to open an office in the region (in Vienna, Va., during August 1989), the CEO Venture Fund is pleased with your decision.
The key to the region's successful development in our mind is the fact that companies are being launched in some of the fastest growing segments of the technology and biotechnology industries. We all know about the fantastic explosion of the Internet industry locally. The CEO Venture Fund was fortunate to have selected local companies in three other expanding markets.
Intelus, our portfolio company that is a leader in client/server applications for medical records and financial institutions, was sold to SunGard in August 1995.
Compucare, one of the emerging leaders in the red hot health-care information systems market, is run by founder Ron Aprahamian, who built a successful company in this field in the 1970s and 1980s. Being able to back or recruit experienced entrepreneurs and executives who have been through rapid growth situations is a critical factor for the success of a region such as the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area. All the signs of this phenomenon occurring are apparent.
ACE*COMM, our portfolio company in telecom information management, focuses on the billing and customer care requirements of communications carriers worldwide. The company has grown substantially in the 1990s and now has installations in over 40 countries, yet has only begun to sell into the Bell operating companies.

Gary Golding
General Partner
CEO Venture Fund, Vienna, Va.
ceofund@aol.com

Apple Users Should Be More Realistic
Apple users and fans seem to be in a state of denial (WT, Jan. 25). Mac technology was clearly leading edge. Emphasis is on "was." Success, though, must also be measured by market share and the ability to expand that share. Just as clearly, Apple did not respond to the market's needs. One symptom has been the fact that Macs and IBMs had generally been mutually exclusive with respect to interchangeability. A non-trivial example is at my agency (a Cabinet-level executive branch department). We have many thousands of IBM-based and Mac machines and applications. Communications between the two types of platforms has ranged from simple (Word 6 can import WordPerfect 6.1 documents) to the impossible (e-mail file transfer protocols usually don't work). The existence of two platform types has made our lives harder than need be with minimal tangible technical benefit. IBMs and Macs just don't seem to play well together.
On a serious note, the presence of incompatible platforms and applications may have been justified at one time, but no longer. All Appleheads have their favorite applications that, of course, couldn't possibly work on an IBM clone -- that is, until the mid-1990s and the maturation of Windows-compatible PC apps. And I'm willing to bet the large majority of Appleheads in the fan clubs don't need applications that can only be found on Macs.
My observation as a technical manager is that technological diversity is an absolute must in the first, creative throes of design and prototyping. However, at some point, if a technology is to have mass-market appeal, some standardization is also essential.
Apple won the intellectual war -- Windows emulation of the Mac operating system is the proof, but perhaps it's time for the Appleheads to be more realistic.

Barry Rich
Arlington, Va.
richb@mail.erols.com

- - -
Apple needs to "lock in" the newcomers that want to get WIRED to AOL, Internet and all the other electronic commerce venues out there.
Having just spent 50 hours configuring a new P-120 notebook running Win/95 and NOT being able to get the $^$ Point is this, if Apple can demonstrate that using its hardware and software, ANYONE can go to work easily on the Net. This is the one task that many are scared about having to figure out, and Apple can solve their concerns.

J. Neil Ferree
Hawthorne, Calif.
jnf@getbids.com

Mention More Netplex Companies
I was shocked and extremely disappointed in reading the article, titled "Computer Maps Give More Than Directions" (WT, Feb. 8) in that your newspaper led off with companies from Montreal, California, Alabama and New York, but failed to mention any of the several major companies "In the Netplex" that are involved in computer maps. If you, I and others are going to promote the development of the Netplex, how can companies from Canada be featured and a major international player from the Netplex in Northern Virginia, like SPOT Image, be ignored? The writer also ignored other major companies in the Netplex such as Intergraph, EOSAT and others.
Adding insult to injury, in the highlighted box the Montreal company and the New York company were featured and all of the Netplex companies were totally ignored!

Ted G. Nanz
President, SPOT Image Corp.
Reston, Va.

The Real PETA Web Site
Thanks for your mention of the cybertheft of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' Internet domain name (WT, Jan. 11). The prankster who registered PETA's acronym as "People Eating Tasty Animals" has a questionable, if not downright sick, sense of humor.
There is nothing humorous about treating living, feeling individuals as walking entrees. Six billion animals a year are raised on factory farms, living (if you can call it that) in cramped quarters where the stench of ammonia from their own wastes, cannibalism caused by overcrowding, and rampant disease prevail. Imprisoned, with their instincts thwarted and their lives cut short, most of these animals never look up at the sky or feel grass under their feet. Their miserable existences are far from the stuff jokes are made of.
Surfers looking for the real PETA can find us on the Web at http://envirolink.org/arrs/peta. We can also be reached at P.O. Box 42516, Washington, D.C. 20015; (301) 770-PETA.

Alison Green
Correspondent, PETA
Washington, D.C.

Nattering Nabobs of Negativism
Your article on information technology procurement reforms in the federal government (WT, Feb. 22) paints an inaccurate picture of efforts underway to create a government that works better and costs less. The Coalition for Government Procurement would like to set the record straight.
The coalition is a multi-industry trade association representing companies selling commercial products to the federal government. Collectively, our members account for over half of the commercial product sales made through the $6 million to $8 million GSA Multiple Award Schedules program.
The procurement reforms discussed in your article will bring benefits to both federal users of information technology, and taxpayers as well. These benefits were, in fact, detailed by the coalition to the reporter during an interview she conducted in preparation for the publication of her article. It is unfortunate that Washington Technology chose not to mention these things, but rather opted for a negative view of reforms that nearly everyone familiar with the current state of federal information technology acquisition agrees are an improvement.
The first misconception in the article is that the reforms being enacted will return information technology procurements to 30 years ago when fraud, waste and abuse were not uncommon.
Thirty years ago, computers and other related IT products were relatively new to both the commercial and federal markets. The federal government was the largest buyer of most information technology items, and many such products were made primarily, if not exclusively, for the government's use. Today, the federal government, while still a large buyer of information technology, has been out-paced by the commercial sector as the largest market segment for information technology products. As a result, the government now buys largely commercial items made for general applications.
Despite this change, many of the special laws governing information technology acquisition had not been changed since their inception. As a result, the government has encountered tremendous delays and increased costs in its effort to modernize federal operations. Products routinely used in the commercial sector have not been available for use in government for months or years after their introduction. The result has been an inefficient, expensive government that has been unable to take advantage of the time and cost savings information technology provides.
By dismantling outdated laws, the government is not embracing lawlessness. In fact, there are still substantial regulations in force to ensure that the government obtains quality goods at fair and reasonable prices. As Oracle's Kevin Fitzgerald was quoted in your article, "The new system is a middle ground; it has oversight, but is not as rigid as the old laws."
More specifically, however, the coalition would like to take issue with the misconceptions in the article surrounding GSA's Multiple Award Schedule program.
The Multiple Award Schedule program is the government's best method for the acquisition of commercial products. Through it, agencies are able to easily obtain a wide variety of commercial goods, including information technology products, at fair and reasonable prices. The schedules are attractive to buyers precisely because they are easy to use, fairly priced, and have state-of-the-art products needed to assist federal workers in fulfilling their mission.
A brief overview of the schedules program is provided here for your information and the readership of Washington Technology.
At the beginning of a schedule period, GSA solicits offers from current contract holders and other interested parties. In this way, all potential contractors are given an opportunity to bid. Offerers must disclose their deepest commercial discounts given to different types of customers. GSA usually tries to obtain the offerers best discount. This ensures that the government buyer gets a fair price from the start.
Competition among contractors helps ensure that the prices stay competitive during the contract period. This market competition is similar to that which takes place in the commercial market, where competitors whose products are priced too high must either lower their prices to meet those of other companies or suffer a steep decline in sales.
The government also has an added protection on schedule contracts through the Price Reduction Clause. This essentially states that the contractor must lower its price to the government when it lowers its price to the commercial customer on who GSA based the negotiated discount.
If federal buyers are still not convinced that the schedule price is reasonable, they may ask a contractor to further reduce its price, or use an alternative procurement method as the schedules program is a non-mandatory source of supply.
Contractors upset about a purchase order placed through a schedule contract may protest the agency's decision to the General Accounting Office.
Clearly, protection for the government and contractors has been built in to the schedules program to ensure that it works as intended. Unfortunately, none of them were discussed in Washington Technology's article and the reader was left to feel, incorrectly, that the government was going to get a bad deal.
The Coalition for Government Procurement contends that the GSA Schedules program is a good deal for the government and contractors. We feel that increased government reliance on the program will lead to reduced acquisition and overhead costs and improved access to current technology.
It will not result in contractors being unaware of federal selling opportunities. Most coalition members report that waiting until a notice about a particular project appears in the Commerce Business Daily places prospective bidders at a severe disadvantage. In most cases, contractors familiar with their federal market segment know about the project well in advance. By the time a formal announcement is made, many companies have already begun to prepare their offer.
The simplified rules and procedures may, however, result in a significant income loss for attorneys dedicated to protesting government procurement actions under the old rules. The resultant benefit of such an occurrence can only lead to an improvement over the status quo.

Paul J. Caggiano
President
Coalition for Government Procurement
Washington, D.C.

Editor's Note: We are guided by our sources, which in the case of the above article represent people who have been in the government information technology business for years. They are telling us -- and all who care to listen -- that procurement reform means less oversight. Less oversight in a $30 billion market makes abuse statistically unavoidable.
It should be added that the members of the Coalition for Government Procurement stand to gain substantial revenue from the recent reforms. If indeed we had talked only to the coalition, then it is highly likely that our story would have said more or less what Mr. Caggiano states in his letter. But as journalists, we are obligated to talk to all interested parties. The article in question was a balanced product of that reporting.

Service Should Re-examine GSA Strategy
In defense of the big picture, departments like the Army and Air Force depend on IDIQ for standardization and hardware commonality, as well as price, ease of use and supportability (WT, March 7). One could only imagine the support nightmare if the same 360,000-plus personal computers came from several hundred GSA Schedule suppliers instead.
What about the uniformed ADP support officers in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, or, heaven forbid, any future conflict? This order of magnitude would undermine the service's ability to achieve and maintain a high state of readiness.
Lately, there are many more instances where a GSA procurement strategy makes good sense, but this isn't one of them.

Brad Mack
Sysorex Information Systems Inc.
bmack@sysorex.com

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