In My Opinion: How About a Common Media for the A

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It's funny--on one hand IBM bends over backwards to help software vendors develop and market their products with sophisticated and expensive AS/400 software programs; yet, on the other hand, they drive those same vendors crazy with some of the stupid things that they do. I'm particularly upset about an item that I'm certain all fledging AS/400 software companies will relate to.

The problem I'm talking about is that IBM did not and apparently will not in the future install one common media drive on every AS/400. What would it cost IBM to pop in one 3.5-inch drive in every AS/400? (If that's too high-tech, IBM, we'll take a 5.25-inch.) They'll complain that it would raise the cost of an AS/400, since their drives go for up to around six or seven thousand dollars. But, as you and I know, we can buy diskette drives all day at $75 each.

Why am I making such a big stink about this? If you are a software vendor, you already know. As a new software developer about to release my first product, I must now find a way to send my software to customers on the following media: 8-inch diskettes, 5.25-inch diskettes, 1/2-inch reel tape, 1/4-inch cartridge tape, and 8mm cartridge tape. And, if you count third-party backup vendors, there's 4mm DAT, too. As any AS/400 MIS person knows, it takes some big bucks to pay for all those drives. Sure, there are companies that will convert the media for you, but this is neither cheap or convenient.

Not only does this affect my costs, and ultimately the cost to the customer, but it completely prohibits me from sending out inexpensive or free demonstrations of my product. A demo on a 1/4-inch cartridge, for example, could easily cost me $50-$100 in tape, conversion and postage. This cost may not be a factor for a company selling a small number of high-priced packages, but it is a concern to someone like myself who is selling high-volume, low- cost packages.

Software vendors aren't the only ones affected. As a customer, you'll find that you must pay for demonstration versions of most AS/400 software products, if you can even get them. Contrast this to the PC market, where vendors gladly send out demo diskettes by the thousands.

I had hoped that the D models might have corrected this problem, but they didn't. At this point, it is too late in the AS/400 game for IBM to add a drive. We're stuck, and it will continue to get worse as more types of backup devices are announced.

Why did IBM do this? There are only two possibilities. One is that they figured they could make much more money by selling software vendors all different types of backup devices. The other is that they just didn't think about it. I believe it was the latter.

It amazes me the way that IBM thinks--or more correctly, doesn't think--when it comes to common sense matters. They should go back to the basics and read and reread their famous slogan that they took from NCR--remember, it's spelled T - H - I - N - K.

Gee, I bet that new RS/6000 has a built-in diskette drive. What's that number for IBM Austin?