Customers determine software packages

I think you all are missing a big, big issue here [FCW, "What's it worth to you?" Dec. 20, 1999, response to "Microsoft, Lotus battle hits Marines," Dec. 6, 1999]. That issue is what software package does the agencies' customers use and demand. This may be even more important than what the internal standard should be. For example, if the Marines are forced, due to some lowball tactics to purchase the Lotus SmartSuite, and all their customers are demanding Office 2000, then each workstation will be forced to have both packages installed. That's not much of a bargain either.

In my agency, the standard is WordPerfect. However, 99 percent of my external customers demand Word and Excel files. This has caused the agency to have to purchase separate Office packages for many computers. If our primary customer was only internal, this might not be a big problem. This, however, is not the case. Our customers are primarily external so we need to talk their language. Come to think of it, over the last five or so years, I have yet to deal with a customer using the SmartSuite package.

I sincerely hope that the Marine Corps doesn't get railroaded by this questionable and somewhat unethical bit of salesmanship. The end cost will be considerably more than the lowball first cost.

Name withheld by request

Federal Highway Administration

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