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1Re: DRAFT Agenda for SLUG/SMBX Meeting of 15 December0
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 89 17:21 EST
From: Brad Miller <miller@CS.ROCHESTER.EDU>
OK, let me reword: is it the kind of cost cutting s.t. profitablity is
increased long term (e.g. dropping per unit manufacturing costs, increasing
machine reliability dropping per unit warrentee costs, etc.) or just
"extraordinary" stuff that hurts in the long run (e.g. you can lay off all
your engineers and save a bundle in costs, but you won't build new machines
that way; you can fire all your expensive computer salesmen, and hire cheap
shoe salesmen... etc.).
Well, I haven't looked at Symbolics's books (and I'm not sure what to
look for if I had access anyway), but I suspect it is mostly the former.
Yes, they laid people off, but it was because they were bloated.
It's often difficult to distinguish the two kinds of cost-cutting.
Layoffs or attrition in manufacturing could be due to efficiency
improvements in the manufacturing process so that fewer workers per unit
are required. Machine reliability presumably has increased, since
service contracts are significantly cheaper for newer products.
I heard sales of equipment were very depressed...
also a recent management reaffirmation that they are a *hardware* company,
which is depressing in and of itself...
We asked them about this. Their answer is that it's very hard to make
money as a software company. I believe them; Lotus and Microsoft are
But Symbolics has also made it clear that they can't compete with SUN, et.
al. in making low cost workstations. Plus it's becoming pretty clear that
these workstations are becoming powerful enough to run real lisp
environments without special hardware.... if nothing else they just use
their speed to simulate. IMHO, it seems like Symbolics' only viable option
is to get their environment running on these machines since a vast majority
of Lisp users can't justify to their management a 30-40k machine, when
they're used to dealing with 5-10k workstations. Particularly when the
hardware performance is no better and often significantly worse. Let's face
it, a lot of good hardware engineers work for Sun and DEC et al. and
Symbolics can't afford to keep up.
All they'll say in this regard is that they are committed to working
with commodity hardware. This may mean that they're working on porting
high-level applications (e.g. Joshua) to other Lisp platforms, or it may
also include porting Genera. They're not saying yet.
Why isn't there yet any upgrade plan for old 36xx machines to Ivory class
There is. My sales rep offered us something like a 10K or 15K discount
to replace a 36xx with an XL400.
Well, I guess I'd call that a trade-in plan, not an upgrade plan.
To me, an upgrade involves replacing parts on an existing machine (e.g.
on upgrades a Macintosh to a Macintosh Plus by replacing the logic board
and disk drive, leaving the cabinet and power supply intact). I doubted
that this was what you meant, so I presumed you meant some form of
given I've already spent $150k on a 3670, offering to sell me a 60k machine
for 50k isn't that terrific a deal. Taking it back and GIVING me an XL400
for it (for maybe a $5k upgrade fee) would go a long way toward improving
customer relations.... and save Symbolics money too --- given what they keep
claiming it costs to service a 36xx machine (look at those full maintainance
contract costs lately :-). Not that I expect they accurately reflect
anything; I've yet to see any decent detailed accounting of what it *really*
costs to service these beasts (ie. MTTR, MTBF, etc. broken out by board).
Sounds very unlikely to me. Nobody does upgrades for free. Upgrading a
Macintosh to a Macintosh Plus cost around 50% of the price of a Mac
Plus. What's Symbolics supposed to do with that 3670 that you've traded
in? They can refurbish it and sell it for $20-30K; it would be hardly
cost-effective for them to give you a $50K machine for it. Yes,
maintaining L-machines is more expensive, but they make up for it by
charging more for service contracts. They presumably make comparable
profit for servicing L-, G-, and I-machines.