Microsoft's Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) certification program for Windows NT could preclude Australia's system builders from competing with other multinational vendors.
ARN has learned that in order for a multi-processor server to be certified by Microsoft's hardware quality labs, the builder must ship the system complete with its test results and a fee to Microsoft's headquarters in the US.
That's fine for the tier-one vendors, but even for some of Australia's biggest assemblers, gaining the "Designed for Microsoft Windows NT" stamp may be preclusive.
Microsoft's stance is in sharp contrast to Wintel buddy Intel and its approach to server products. Intel is trying to promote and encourage local assemblers through its Genuine Intel Dealer program, thereby certifying the builder rather than the box.
According to Chris Dimmock, director of sales and marketing at local system builder Genitech, if a reseller or end user wants the Windows NT-certified logo from Microsoft on their system, that won't be a problem, "as long as they understand it will cost about $2500 for freight costs and take an indeterminable period of time".
Genitech has developed its own BluePrinted Systems program whereby the company can configure a customer's server and network environment to exact specifications and then arrange for certification under Microsoft's WHQL program.
Digital's director of product and channels for Australia and New Zealand, Paul O'Connor, said the bottom line is if you want to be assured that the system and components are certified as NT-compliant, and carry the sticker, you must deal with a tier-one vendor.
Buying from a local assembler doesn't mean it is not NT-compliant though. TPG national PC sales manager Timothy Strachan said that, although TPG is certified to PC 97 (a high-level Microsoft certification standard), it is not in a position to supply systems that require that certification.
"We don't send systems overseas, but we will show the results of the compliance tests," he said.
Guy Haycock, NT product manager for Microsoft New Zealand, said some companies may find the certification process "onerous", but says it is done for the protection of NT customers. "These systems are complex and you need to check that they work." he said.