Upgrade cycle spells bad news for Wintel camp

It's upgrade time for Microsoft and Intel again - open your corporate wallets and say "Aarrgghh". Our latest Computerworld 1000 Survey in which we poll 30 of New Zealand's leading companies, has some bad news for the Wintel camp - consumers are tired of the constant "bloatware" upgrade cycle. In fact, more than half would rather have smaller, bug-free software that doesn't need faster processors with larger hard drives.

It’s upgrade time again -— open your corporate wallets and say “Aarrgghh”.

Both Microsoft and Intel are on the warpath — Microsoft has Windows 98 to push but is wary of stealing the thunder from NT 5.0’s launch next year, and Intel is dazzling OEMs with baubles like the low-cost Celeron chip, 100MHz bus speeds, mobile chips, 400MHz Pentium II processors and the promise of much, much more to come by the end of the year.

But our latest Computerworld 1000 Survey in which we poll 30 of New Zealand’s leading companies, has some bad news for the Wintel camp — consumers are tired of the constant “bloatware” upgrade cycle. In fact, more than half would rather have smaller, bug-free software that doesn’t need faster processors with larger hard drives.

David Collins, group development manager for Crown Worldwide, an international freight and document management specialist, is well aware of the cost of constantly upgrading both hardware and software.

“It becomes quite expensive. We have four offices in New Zealand with an NT server in each as well as a Notes server running on a WAN.” Collins says if any product was designed specifically to increase speed, he would seriously look at it.

“The size of software is a problem. It’s become exceedingly memory-hungry. I’m constantly looking to reduce demand on memory capacity.”

One issue driving the upgrade cycle is year 2000 conversion, but Collins says Crown is ahead of the game on that score.

“It was something we addressed two years ago. We knew it was going to happen and we took it seriously. We conducted a full survey worldwide right down to our faxes and phones.”

Dow Chemical has opted out of the upgrade philosophy entirely.

“We have a three-year contract and at the end of that we wheel out 30,000 PCs and wheel in 30,000 new ones,” says Dow Agro Sciences’ Robin Trusner. He says that by 1996 the company, which manufactures chemical products, was having enough difficulty internally with different divisions using different standards to prompt a decision to standardise Dow’s IT environment around the world.

“Users get a choice of four machines — either high- or low-end and either desktop or notebook.”

Dow will replace its current stock in 1999, probably running Windows 98 with NT 5.0 on the servers, thus neatly avoiding any problem with the year 2000.

The majority of respondents, 19 out of 30, are running Windows 95 on their “core equipment”. While 13 will upgrade to either Windows 98 or NT 5.0, seven won’t bother upgrading at all and six aren’t sure.

Thirteen of the respondents use machines with Pentium 133 MMX chips. Only five respondents had faster machines, but most respondents — 16 in total — say they aren’t looking at upgrading to Pentium II processors. Seventeen respondents would prefer “smaller, bug-free software” while only eight chose “faster processors and larger drives”. Four wanted both and one brave respondent wanted it all to just go away.

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