Anybody watching Waltham, Massachusetts-based AICorp’s figures will have been alarmed to see third quarter net profit drop 96% to $58,000 on turnover down 17% at $5.6m (CI No 1,846) – is the company in decline, has AI run out of steam? The answer to both these questions is no, according to Keith Deane, managing director of AICorp Ltd. What is happening is that the company is in the process of changing its profile. Traditionally AICorp has sold its KBMS product into mainframe accounts, but nowadays fewer companies are developing on the mainframe, necessitating a company shift in marketing approach to encourage initial development on workstations for deployment in a variety of environments. Figures have also been dented by the company buying its European operation for just under $6m and on top of this earnings have been flat – hit by both the recession and a changing customer spending pattern as downsizing takes place. To ride these changes AICorp is moving from a low volume, high value supplier to a higher volume, lower value organisation. Licensing policy is being changed to accomodate this with per-user licences soon to be available for everything bar the mainframe product. Sales in the workstation market also demand a different sales cycle – the mainframe purchasing decision takes six to nine months while decision-making takes around 90 days at the workstation level but Deane believes that revenues will remain firm. To whet the appetites of these workstation users AICorp has come out its Starter Kit, which includes two development licences, two maintenance agreements, 90 days’ support and seven days on-site consultancy packaged with a 25% discount. And to provide a business-oriented entry path into knowledge-based management systems AICorp is bringing out its first package called KBMS Helpdesk Shell to meet the high demand for helpdesk applications. The generic shell has a simple decision tree type interface for the user to feed in site knowledge. Available first on OS/2, versions for Windows 3.1 and for VAX/VMS will follow and a range of products is on offer. For #700 you can buy a Consultation System which is the runtime licence for Helpdesk staff, and for #1,500 you can buy the shell and a builder system to add in knowledge and for #12,000 (#6,000 if you already have KBMS) you can licence the application source code to customise the application and tie it into a database. A starter kit is also available including one customisable shell, two builder systems, four consultation systems, two training classes and consultancy – all for #20,000. With this product set AICorp believes that it will be competing against the Case Based Reasoning products offered by Inference Corp and Aion Corp but thinks that it is offering a far lower cost entry point. Application shells for other areas are likely to follow from AICorp.
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