Agencies' technology buying reflexes are faster than ever
- By Michael Cheek
- Aug 26, 1996
The government no longer waits six months or a year before buying new kinds of hardware
and software, an exclusive Government Computer News survey shows.
With more than a third of government respondents running Windows 95 and almost nine out
of 10 accessing the World Wide Web, it's clear that the government is hip to the latest
More evidence: A sixth of all respondents in a comparable survey last year had Pentium
PCs on their desks. Today, it's more than half. A few folks--3 percent--even have Pentium
Seventy percent of the Pentium chips run at clock speeds between 90 MHz and 133 MHz.
The single most common speed is 100 MHz, reported by 23 percent of respondents wuith
Pentiums. Eighteen percent have Pentiums running at 75 MHz or slower.
At the high end, 12 percent, including the Pentium Pros, run at 150 MHz or faster.
Expect that group to grow significantly as the ""sweet spot'' in CPU chips
shifts upward after the introduction of the 200-MHz processors this summer.
As for brand names on government Pentium PCs, Gateway 2000 Inc. pulled out far ahead of
rival Dell Computer Corp. Last year, the two giants were in a virtual dead heat. This
year, Gateway has almost 23 percent of government's Pentium desktops while Dell has 13
Micron Electronics Inc. pulled third place with 10 percent of installed Pentiums,
although a portion of those were from the recently discontinued line of Zeos International
Inc., which merged with Micron in 1995.
Ever-popular Compaq Computer Corp. and Digital Equipment Co. round-out the top five
with 7 percent and 5 percent respectively. With 4 percent or less, the rest of the top 10
were Zenith Data Systems Corp., IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Acer America Corp. and EPS
Average RAM increased by about 5M this year from 20M in 1995, which could reflect both
the push to Pentium power and the remarkably low prices for memory this year. Ninety-two
percent of all Pentiums had 16M or more memory--more than enough to run Microsoft Windows
Speaking of that 1-year-old operating system, Win95 found a home on more than a third
of all desktops. Windows 3.X remained dominant, but 1 in 10 respondents use Windows NT.
Expect to see Win95 and NT Workstation to gain ground in the coming year, especially NT
with the recent release of Version 4.0.
Between last year's survey and this year's, average disk capacity also ballooned, by
more than 300M. 1995's average hard drive was 910M, but 1996's is 1.2G. Still, 36 percent
of all PCs have less than 1G of hard-drive storage. Today's typical Pentium has 2G or
more, so look for further increases here.
Mice still are the most popular navigational devices, with 95 percent of users using
them. Still, some 5 percent said they use a trackball and a new entry, touchpads, garnered
3 percent. That adds up to more than 100 percent, because half of the trackball and
touchpad users use a mouse too.
CD-ROMs are the most popular hardware add-ons. Three out of four Pentium PCs containing
the disc-spinners. More than half of those CD-ROMs are quad-speed. Six-speed was the
second most popular, followed by eight-speed, but double-speed still represented about 10
percent of the CD-ROMs.
Most monitors on these systems were 14- or 15-inch models, although 17-inch screens
went from 24 percent to 38 percent in the past year. More than half of all monitors were
purchased as a part of a PC system.
Multimedia is catching on in the government, and almost half of all Pentium systems
have sound cards. Now that many vendors are integrating audio on the motherboard, it will
be more and more difficult to buy a system without sound.
We asked about tape backup this year for the first time. The response: 1 out of 4 users
has a tape backup system. Most of those probably were installed during the last 18 months
or so, after introduction of the inexpensive Travan format drives like Iomega Corp.'s
Also, 1 out of 10 has a scanner, and the same portion have a large-capacity Iomega Zip
drive or an EZ-135 drive from Syquest Technology Inc. CD-recordable drives can be found on
only 2 percent of desktops.
The modem race finds the 28.8 kilobits/sec. on almost a fourth of all systems and 14.4
kilobits/sec on about a fifth.
The most popular software was Microsoft Office, which is used on about 2 out of 3
systems. Netscape Navigator, the World Wide Web browser, came in second on 42 percent of
all systems. Microsoft's Internet Explorer was surprisingly close behind with 29 percent,
although there is an overlap of 16 percent of users who have both browsers installed.
In the Pentium groupware world, Lotus Development Corp.'s Notes, at 6 percent, was not
the leader. Novell Corp.'s Groupwise pulled 15 percent and Microsoft's Exchange had 14
percent. However, the latter two products might be in use solely as e-mail services in
some places, rather than true groupware installations.
Four out of five government workers are on a network, and the average LAN connects
almost 1,000 users. However, third of all networks have less than 100 users.
Nine out of 10 government workers say they have PCs at home. And a third has a portable
PC they use in conjunction with their desktop PC, most of those purchased by the
Among these hardware users, about half get to choose the product for themselves, while
the other half have no choice. The General Services Administration schedule remains the
most popular buying vehicle at 39 percent. The open market remained popular with 29
percent. Conventional contract purchases accounted for 15 percent, and
indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts 6 percent.
The survey was mailed to 4,000 GCN readers who indicated they used or purchased PCs;
466 government employees responded.