Marketing TPF: Have I Got A Deal For You

In my last editorial I took issue with the marketing strategy that IBM has adopted regarding TPF. Let me first say two things. Number one, is that I should have included TPF/MVS (ALCS) in my discussion since it potentially suffers the same fate as TPF. Number two is that IBM doesn't have a marketing strategy for either of these products!

Part of the problem as I see it, is that the wrong people are entrenched in the TPF "business division". 1 can say this because I haven't heard of any new licenses being purchased in the past two years. I'm not aware of any other company on the face of the earth that would tolerate a staff of sales professionals who haven't sold a thing in two years.

An even bigger part of the problem is the incredible in-fighting and back-stabbing that goes on within IBM itself. There have been several instances where a customer has wanted to move to a TPF platform, and the deal was killed by other "interests" within IBM itself. In some cases the issues were political, in others purely financial. Let's be honest, IMS shops need a lot more hardware than TPF shops. In every case however, TPF has lost the deal, and its potential for growth and greater market share.

I've pondered this problem for a long, long time. These things aren't new to those of us who have invested 10 or 15 or 20 years in ACPITPF professions. They've been happening for as many years, and are likely to keep happening until either something drastic takes place, or the plug just gets pulled and the technology is permitted to die with some dignity. I would like to propose something drastic.

If you follow things in the PC world, particularly in the PC gaming arena, then you are probably familiar with a game called Doom. ID Software, Inc. of Mesquite, Texas has combined incredible graphics, fast-paced action, and a challenging premise into the hottest PC game on the market today. The estimated user base for Doom (in this country alone) is over 1 million people, and growing! Not surprising considering the fact that the "product" was well designed, well documented, challenging, entertaining, supported ..... you know, all the things a customer expects from a good product offering. Oh, did I mention price', Doom is by no means unreasonably priced, but ID Software did make one those drastic moves, and it paid off in spades. They gave the product away for free. Over 40,000 copies of the Doom were given away at no cost, and if you can follow the logic here, the company's profits shot right through the roof. Let's get back to TPF.

Here's the deal. I would like to see IBM give copies of TPF3.1 to 500 of the major companies in the world for free. Give them the release tapes, give them the softcopy documentation, and give them a license to use the product for 12-18 months at absolutely no cost what-so-ever. There are unquestionably companies that will "take advantage" of this offer. And that's where we can all benefit.

There will be a tremendous demand for support from these companies. Technicians start your engines; there is likely to be lots of permanent and contract employment available. Trainers and educators dust off your curriculums; the classrooms may just fill-up again. Hardware folks, you might have to sharpen your pencils again; CMOS boxes, tape drives, controllers, and DASD are all required. Third party vendors, time to get that suit pressed; when was the last time you sold a copy of your product to a new client? And you guys (and gals) up in Poughkeepsie, roll up your sleeves as well, because you're about to get a well deserved transfusion.

What's it really costing IBM? The cost of the tapes and the shipping is insignificant. Are they losing millions of dollars in monthly licensing fees? Maybe on paper, but that money was never coming in before either. Considering the potential money that can be made, the cost of giving the product away is not an issue. Certainly the marketing folks need to do their homework and select 500 companies that are likely to jump on the TPF wagon, but 1 don't believe that is an obstacle. So for 12-18 months, the demands for technical support, training, consulting services and the like, are almost certain to grow, and when IBM drops support for TPF3.1, the move to 4.1 becomes a business decision that every company will ultimately have to make. Of course TPF4.1 is not free. The client base will grow. The market share will increase. The licensing revenues will roll in. The industry will have a much needed shot in the arm. (And 1 will have hundreds of new subscribers.)

The way 1 see it, there isn't anything in IBM's standard bag of tricks that can get us up off the ground and back on our feet. Without a radical approach or without a daring move, I see the curtain coming down on the technological jewel in the IBM crown. There's an old saying, "When you've got nothing left, you've got nothing left to lose". So why not take the plunge? Besides, who's going to compete with a "100% Off Sale"?

Alan Sadowsky