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ARN analysis

As this week's front page story reveals, the tug of war between Microsoft, the US Department of Justice, and those angry US states has been in full swing for the past two weeks and it seems neither side is willing to yield ground. But do Australian resellers, distributors, retailers and assemblers give two hoots about Microsoft's showdown with the Justice Department? And does it expect Windows 98 to be the sales juggernaut that Windows 95 proved to be when it was launched in August 1995? As ARN journalists Ellen Cresswell, Tom Allen and Peter Young discovered, there's more to business than waiting around for Microsoft productResellers, distributors can't buy a Win 98 customerby Peter YoungBRISBANE - Ho hum. The imminent arrival of Windows 98 is all a big yawn as far as corporate customers are concerned, according to Queensland resellers. Interest is slightly higher from the general public but might be called patchy at best.

"At this point, there is absolutely nil demand from our corporate clients," said Mike Walsh, sales manager for Brisbane dealer C:Drive.

According to Alexa Bowen, owner of The Business Equipment Shop: "there are not a lot of people walking into our retail business asking questions about it. I think because it has been put off so many times, they wonder if it is really happening."

Customers buying new systems bundled with Win 95 are resisting payment of a small premium to guarantee a future upgrade to Win 98, said Ray Shaw, general manager of reseller Techmart.

None of the last 50 buyers of systems from Techmart have opted to pay an extra $40 for the upgrade coupon, he said.

Interest is higher among resellers who are clients of Intec, the distribution arm of PC supplier Source Technology.

There is little or no evidence among resellers that buyers are postponing purchases of new PCs until Win 98 arrives, he said.

No holding back

However, that might change closer to the release date when Microsoft's launch campaign kicks in, Intec manager Adam Birgan suggested.

Dealers who have sighted beta copies of Win 98 were dubious it would prompt a rush of hardware upgrades.

"It may generate more hardware sales in areas like monitors because it can support multiple monitors. But at the end of the day, this is only a minor upgrade," said Byte Power sales manager Ian McLachlan.

Retailers divide Windows 98 loyalties

by Ellen Cresswell

SYDNEY - There are mixed feelings within the retail market over the impact Windows 98 will have on sales.

According to Frank Kavanagh, Myer Grace Bros' national buyer for computers and software, customers are getting excited about the release.

Any publicity is good publicity and while the Microsoft/Department of Justice (DoJ) scuffle may not be what Bill Gates wanted, it's certainly raised awareness about Windows 98 in most corners of the market, Kavanagh said.

"Customers are certainly coming and asking for its proposed release date, and if the US court case will influence the decision of Microsoft Australia or not," he said.

Myer Grace Bros will order "substantial numbers" of Windows 98 and Kavanagh believes the sell-through will be the driving force in "fairly uninspiring software sales".

The manager of independent computer retailer Meghead, Alex Vassallo, hopes to sell 100 to 150 units in the first week.

Kavanagh expects Windows 98 to sell in two or three major "waves".

Microsoft has given its resellers the "full steam ahead" directive for Windows 98, despite pending legal action by the DoJ.

Harris Technology director Ron Harris said the DoJ action will become a "distant memory" for end users as long as there's no delay or disablement in the final product.

Meanwhile, Dick Smith is going ahead with its Windows 98 roll-out despite a lack of anticipation from customers, according to public relations manager Rachelle Connor.

Assemblers wait for the green light

by Tom Allen

SYDNEY - Most Australian assemblers have no choice but to proceed with the planned June 25 launch of Microsoft's Windows 98, despite the events of the last few weeks.

According to Microsoft Australia OEM sales manager Dave Wrathall, larger Australian assemblers have already received their OEM pre-installation kit (OPK), and authorised replicators will soon be preparing packs for shipping with new systems. He estimated local assemblers should be receiving the packs, complete with media and certificate of authenticity, around June 15. Microsoft distributors are also expected to have stock available by that date.

For assemblers wishing to ship Windows 98 with their systems from launch day, the logistics of having product at any number of sites at the same time is enough of a challenge without worrying about delays because of legal action in the US.

High expectations

Todaytech's managing director, Jack Zhong, said he expects all of its 12 branches across Australia will have systems complete with Windows 98 packs before June 25.

Optima marketing manager Alec Hone said unless the company is notified otherwise by Microsoft, he expects the release of Windows 98 to proceed on schedule.

However, having systems roll out the door complete with Windows 98 on June 25 is not a major priority for Ipex mar- keting director John Sheiman, since there has not been any indication of major demand in the corporate and government market.

The same applies for Anabelle Bits. Company spokesperson Maree Lowe said because most of its systems went into corporate and government, it was not as critical as it would be if the company supplied a lot of retailers.


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