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March 1, 1994


By CBR Staff Writer

Protecting its back, or rather its bottom, Powersoft Corp has launched PowerBuilder Desktop, a stand-alone version of its application development tool. Basically the Burlington, Massachusetts company has stripped the network database links out of PowerBuilder and produced a stand-alone, Windows implementation incorporating its Watcom SQL database engine. As such the company is heading straight into Borland International Inc, Microsoft Corp and Software Publishing Corp territory. Currently Powersoft has around 3,400 customers, worldwide, but it is hoping that its 56-city, international road show will seed 10,000 potential Desktop users in the first three months. In addition to being a money-spinner in its own right the company is hoping to build a population of Powerbuilder coders to act as evangelists. To that end PowerBuilder Desktop is being sold at a promotional price of $250 until the end of May – $700 thereafter. Once enticed onto the bottom of the escalator, users can upgrade to the full PowerBuilder Enterprise package by buying the networked database gateways. Enterprise is having its price trimmed by $200 to $3,400. The aggressive push into the low end is also designed to halt the march of the personal computer database vendors in to Powersoft’s heartland. As Mitchell Kertzman, Powersoft’s chairman and chief executive, told the Wall Street Journal: We want to engage them in their space instead, where they’re relatively vulnerable right now. However the mass market, with its distribution and support problems is new to Powersoft. The company has remedied this in part through a worldwide distribution agreement with Merisel Inc, which has 16,500 dealers in Europe alone. Support is trickier: whereas Powerbuilder Enterprise users get 30 days of free phone support, Desktoppers will be limited to help on initial installation and set-up, han-dled not by Merisel, but by Powersoft’s existing band of distri-butors. After that, support will be handled on a pay as-you-ask basis by Powersoft itself. To that end the company is being forced to increase staff. Powersoft UK plans to double to 20 the number of staff employed on its on its help-desk. Compared with its traditional market, the volumes are huge, but the margins very low. However Mark Lindsay, manager of the UK company, believes that the Desktop version will stabilise at around 10% to 20% of Powersoft’s revenues, and lower margins are presumably a small price to pay for a large, trained population of Power-Builder programmers. At the same time Powersoft has announced versions of its Watcom SQL database server for NetWare, OS/2 and Windows NT. Currently it only has MS-DOS and Windows hosted versions. The NetWare Loadable Module shipped on March 1, the OS/2 version should appear in April, with Windows NT following in the third quarter.

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