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Compaq lets developers try its wares on the Web

The computer maker announces a test-drive program for software developers interested in its hardware and software.

    The computer maker today announced a test-drive program for software developers interested in its hardware and software.

    Under the program, developers can try out Compaq hardware and software over the Web rather than get their hands on their own products, said Carl Ramsey, worldwide director of the Compaq Solutions Alliance.

    The program is part of Compaq's effort to make sure software is available to run on its systems. That's essential, especially given that corporate customers typically choose what software they want to run before they choose the system it runs on. In a similar vein, IBM has "solution partnership centers" where software companies can come try out the latest IBM hardware.

    Compaq launched the Web site in July on a limited basis with an average 2,500 test drivers a week trying out their software on various operating systems, including Linux, Tru64 Unix, and OpenVMS. Initially, only about 2,500 CSA members could access the site.

    "The CSA program is really a combination of the [software] marketing programs that Compaq, Digital, and Tandem had," said Lindy Lesperance, analyst with Technology Business Research. "This is just giving developers more, an opportunity to go out and actually test the different platforms."

    The New Technologies Test Drive program, as it is called, does have its limitations. The program is not designed for benchmarking software applications because of the way Compaq's Web servers handle Internet traffic.

    "By providing both ProLiant- and Alpha-based, and even Himalaya-based, systems on this network for people to try, we believe once they see the performance of these platforms they will want to develop and deploy applications for them," said Ramsey.

    Compaq doesn't currently track operating system popularity but plans to do so later. The data could use this for planning the future of Tru64 Unix and OpenVMS, and expanding support for Linux.

    "A critical mass of applications is essential to the success of any platform," said Ramsey.

    Compaq has long courted ISVs, recognizing the importance of optimizing their software applications for Compaq's hardware systems. Software developers can also be instrumental in convincing customers which company's systems are best for its applications.