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Re: Academic Holiday Specials

The following will undoubtedly put Symbolics on the defensive, and I'm sorry.
However, I'm trying to help, so please take this as friendly criticism and
some information/perspective you may not have.

I know you are doing the best you can on pricing hardware for academics
(although I wish you had the resources and energy to be even more agressive
about it). But software ...

It seems to me this is as good a marketing opportunity as you've got. How much
more could it cost to put these packages in the next distribution to your
academic accounts (8.2, I guess) for free? Put it in front of people who are
going to make creative use of it, put it in front of people who are setting
their habits and expectations for when they're in a position to buy software
and solutions ... I can't beleive you need $2000 APIECE to cover your costs
for a good marketing opportunity, much less $500. 

Realize that in an academic environment, most machines are shared, therefore
putting a software package on one machine is pretty unrealistic. People are
hesitant to use Symbolics-specific software simply because it restricts their
ability to share it with others (this is a fact - new students, professors,
and researchers are very hesitant to use a Symbolics until I sell them on
Common Lisp, CLOS, and CLIM making their code portable - even then they're
hesitant). If its restricted to a single Symbolics machine, forget it.

(a) I've been of the impression that this WAS academic pricing. Whenever I
bring up the above and (b) with Symbolics, I'm asked wouldn't help if the pricing
was right around where this "special" is.

(b) I have to fight very hard to keep Symbolics in my institution. If there
were some value added packages thrown in for free, maybe after a year of using
them and proving they have some value to us I could scrape together the money
to pay for software support on them.

Finally, academic reality - most schools run a fiscal year from July 1 to June
30, hence extra funds becoming rapidly available happens in June. For the rest
of the year, well, if I moved today to take advantage of these prices, I might
get a PO out to you by Dec. And I'd have to do substantial marketing of why we
needed one of your products to do that, so a special that lasts 10 weeks in
the academic market is likely to sail by unnoticed.

Now a word from reality - If I could persuade the folks here to allocate $6 -
8K (which is what it would take to buy the software packages - which are
useless to us on a single machine) for Symbolics, I'd think that if my goal is
to keep Symoblics in here, it'd be best to spend that money maintaining the
36xx's I've got (a number of which are on shared/T&M) and/or buying another MacI
board set. Also, if you included a Radius monitor and an acceptable 320Mb
drive for say 10K (i.e. I just supply the Mac), it'd be real attractive. I
can't believe that refurbished equipment and/or creative pricing for such a
package couldn't come in at right around 10K, frankly.

Okay, one more point which is not directly on the subject, but this is as good
a place as any to air it. I negotiated for our MAINTENANCE bill with Symbolics
this year to be 28K - this is to support or marginally support 18 machines. In
the College of Computing at Georgia Tech we have well over 100 suns. Software
support for those machines is $100/machine, which include not only
distribution of new os binaries, but also enables us to get LOTS of software
at no additional cost (including Lisp). We've got a board swap agreement for
maintenance which costs us nothing but the swap itself - and we never fix
them, 'cause they don't break. Not even the monitors. Tech has been hit with
7.5% budget cuts two years running, and we'll get hit with at least another 3%
in the coming year (if they project 3, read 6 or 7). At the rate of spending
for just MAINTAINING our Symbolics, I could buy 2 real fat SPARC2's a year,
and pay for my software maintenance, and probably cop a laser printer or two.
The bottom line is the College of Computing spends less than 100,000/yr on
maintenance (I believe the exact number is under 80K) - this includes around
125 Suns, 20 or so NeXTs, an EPOCH file server, a Maspar, a Sequent, and some
Symbolics. Somewhere between one quarter and one third of that money goes to
Symbolics. What do you think the picture looks like to the bean counters? Can
you come up with an arguement to convince them otherwise?

Any other academic opinions (or others)?