Seagate to Alter BI Purchasing Model

Seagate Software (www.seagatesoftware.com) says putting a business intelligence suite in fewer than 50 seats has no value -- at least to Seagate.

Last month, the business intelligence vendor began shipping CDs with a free version of its Info 7 business intelligence suite, complete with a 50-user license and no time limit. Also on the CD, Seagate bundled a new desktop business intelligence tool, called Analysis, for free.

What Seagate is driving at is to convince corporate buyers they must have Info 7 at hundreds or thousands of seats. "We’re banking on the fact that most companies are not going to find that 50 seats meets their needs," says Ken McGovern, product marketing manager for Seagate’s Info.

The freeware marketing campaign puts meat on a theme Seagate has been fleshing out since before it released Info 7 in December. Seagate contends the features in business intelligence tools that users employ on their desktops are becoming commodities. "We know that the value is the infrastructure bringing them together," says Tony Wind, Seagate’s vice president of product management. "We have the best sort of client tools. We’re willing to put them together in a product like Analysis for free."

With its first shipment, Seagate targeted 900,000 IT professionals in North America and 400,000 to 600,000 elsewhere. Seagate plans two more similar shipments. "It is really the biggest, most concentrated initiative the company has ever undertaken," McGovern says.

Those not on the mailing list can download Analysis, about a 40-MB file, from Seagate’s Web site. Seagate is also taking orders for the CD with Info 7 and Analysis.

It’s not the first time Seagate has given away what others would sell. Last year, Seagate offered Worksheet 7, an OLAP client with an Excel-style display, as a free download from the Web. The company has followed through on a promise to keep the free product current: Seagate has a beta version available that supports write-back with SQL Server 7.0 OLAP services.

The version of Info 7 on the CD is considered a maintenance release. It includes a simplified installation with fewer choices and less computer-based training for setting up security and user groups. New features allow creation of custom intranet portals or desktop views and integration with Analysis.

Analysis includes ad hoc query, reporting and OLAP; direct links to Microsoft Excel; extensive samples to help users figure out how to use the tool; and tight integration with Seagate’s enterprise reporting product, Crystal Reports. Analysis allows point-and-click drill down into underlying data supporting a Crystal report.

The free products are supported via e-mail.

Mike Schiff, an analyst with Current Analysis (www.currentanalysis.com), says Seagate may have the market weight to use giveaways to change the purchasing model for business intelligence suites.

"I think it’s a real aggressive tactic on their part," Schiff says. "While it sounds risky, I think the cost [to Seagate] is minimal. The revenue loss to a five-seat or 10-seat deployment is minimal."

Schiff also gives Seagate credit for saying, "Try it, you’ll like it."

"Business intelligence is not a binary decision. It’s not a winner take all battle," Schiff says. "The game is: Get your software in there. There will be other competition in there that you’re not likely displacing. Ultimately, if enough of these are in there, that’s a reasonable tactic."