NSF will stop developing Mac versions of certain agencywide business applications

The National Science Foundation has become the second federal organization in recent
months to announce that some of its business applications will no longer run on Apple
Macintosh systems.


But “people can keep their Macs if they want,” said Fred Wendling, director
of NSF’s Division of Information Systems.


After peaking at 12 percent a few years ago, Macs now number 7 percent of NSF’s
client base, Wendling said.


The agency made the development decision after learning that Sybase Inc. had dropped
future Mac versions of its PowerBuilder tools.


NSF created its grant proposal and review applications with PowerBuilder, Wendling
said. Now the agency is porting its financial accounting, payroll and personnel
applications from an IBM Corp. mainframe to a client-server architecture.


Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory officials announced earlier that they could no
longer guarantee Mac access to the lab’s Oracle Corp. and PeopleSoft Inc. business
applications [GCN, Oct. 12, Page 42].


Although NSF has only 150 Mac users among 2,000 employees and contractors, Wendling
said it costs about 15 percent more to develop business apps for them than it does for
Microsoft Windows platforms.


An additional 50 Mac systems serve in support capacities such as training for the 150
users, Wendling said.


The Macs that interact with other systems for e-mail and file sharing take extra
development and programming work, he said. And some of NSF’s grant documentation,
received on CD-ROM, is accessible only under Windows, Wendling said.


Mac users who want to access business apps in the future may do so at a PC dedicated to
the purpose, Wendling said.


Some Mac users were upset by the announcement, Wendling said. “Some thought we
were going to ban them. Our decision was numbers-based. If we had 93 percent Mac machines
we would say, ‘No more Windows.’ It’s not a proper use of money.”


Effective last January, Sybase of Emeryville, Calif., ceased development of
PowerBuilder and InfoMaker for the Mac, said company spokesman Brian Schwartz. He cited
lack of demand and the need to concentrate on application tools that run across
enterprises.


Mac users’ legendary loyalty has maintained a federal niche for the platform,
concentrated in pockets at the Energy Department, NASA and the National Institutes of
Health.


A leading Apple Computer Inc. federal reseller, Government Technology Services Inc. of
Chantilly, Va., gets “onesy and twosy orders” for Mac systems, said inside sales
manager Mark Thoreson, but few of the requests for proposals for hundreds of systems that
it used to receive. 

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