Not making a federal case

Powerful computers and a new operating system from Apple Computer Inc. might not be enough to persuade federal agencies to dump their Windows PCs and Unix. A significant issue for agencies is whether Apple will take them seriously and respond to their needs appropriately.

Microsoft Corp.'s Bill Gates and Dell Computer Corp.'s Michael Dell are known to visit their federal customers to discuss the issues important to them. That has contributed to the success of both companies' products in the market. But Apple seems to view federal customers somewhat askance.

Apple's federal team is dedicated to its task, but it appears it is not receiving the necessary support from the corporate headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. To the obvious frustration of the federal team members, they were prohibited from speaking for this story. Instead, the company issued a statement describing the commitment of its federal sales force and the popularity of its products in the market.

The reason no federal people were permitted to speak? Apple has approved spokespeople only for its core businesses: the consumer, commercial and education markets, according to the company.

The raft of product announcements gives Apple the chance to boost its fortunes with federal customers, if only the company would embrace those customers, said Dendy Young, chairman and chief executive officer of Apple reseller GTSI Corp. in Chantilly, Va. Young founded then-exclusive Apple reseller Falcon Microsystems in 1985, before selling the company to GTSI in 1994.

"I would call on Apple to take government customers very seriously and create a new marketing and sales organization for this market," Young said. "We have customers who are treated inappropriately for their size and quality."

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