Seagate Software is giving away 50 seat licences of Info, its mid to high end Business Intelligence development suite together with unlimited single user licences of its new Analysis desktop analytic tool.
Seagate executives say the initiative, with a planned 2.5 million CD's dropping onto people's desktops, is the largest of its kind ever undertaken.
Peter Deffern, Seagate's vice president of sales and marketing for Emea, said: "At the moment it is difficult for vendors to differentiate themselves in the market. We want users to think about using our software as naturally as they do Excel today."
The Analysis tool is a subset of other tools in Seagate's range, including Crystal Reports, Olap and Query, but packaged so that end users can become productive 'out of the box'.
In the case of Info, customers receive the current version, 7.0. A single user version has already been incorporated into Microsoft Backoffice Server 4.01. Telephone user support on both products will be supplied to those who register the products.
Seagate hopes that by flooding the market, customers will reap benefits and then be prepared to invest beyond the 50 seats - at a cost of $295 per additional seat.
"Gartner Group say the market is set to explode from $1.8 billion today to $6 billion by 2002. We're helping that process but giving users a no risk option," said Deffern.
Alistair Laidlaw, managing director of IT Network, part of InterX Group and a major Seagate distributor, said this is a good move for the channel because, "it allows us to move more towards service provision and provides us with multiple associated selling opportunities."
But independent consultant Richard Creeth, a 20 year veteran of the BI industry and co-author with Olap guru Nigel Pendse of the Business Intelligence Olap Report was not so sure.
"I'm seeing no evidence of the kind of penetration that Seagate is anticipating. The problem for users is finding a way to add value to data through applications. I don't see how dumping CD's does anything to change that," he said.
Rob Zalums, UK managing director at Cognos, a Seagate competitor poured scorn on the initiative.
"They've done this before with Crystal Reports but when you look at what is actually deployed, it's a very different story. We've no intention of following their example. There are plenty of competent Var's out there who can figure out which products best fit on delivered functionality," he said.
Seagate is taking an enormous gamble because the real problem for users has been understanding what Olap and business intelligence means in terms of applications.
Privately, Seagate insiders acknowledge that while Info is very flexible, it is so functionally deep that even their engineers sometimes have difficulty in plumbing its depths. Until recently, they didn't for example know the extent to which Info can be used to undertake data mining operations.
Seagate says it will provide users with templates to help them get started with applications and some of these will be delivered through its www.fetchseagate.com site. But the reality is that once users move beyond any basic application building, they will need a lot of third party help to not only deliver applications but manage the BI environment.
However, if successful, Seagate stands to make a killing. Its previous give away of Crystal Reports is estimated to lead to ongoing upgrade revenues equivalent to between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of all Reports licenses.
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