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Exploring new vistas.

Windows-based technologies are opening up new vistas of opportunity in origination. What are these technologies, and what can they do for you?

The morning was cool and the wind was from the southeast...we continued down stream for about six miles. Midway, we hit a very bad rapid and we had to lighten the canoe...we stopped [and] I climbed a high cliff and saw a high mountain covered with snow. I believe this was Mount St. Helens, mentioned in Capt. Vancouver's journals.

- FROM THE JOURNAL OF WILLIAM CLARK, OF THE LEWIS AND CLARK EXPEDITION; RECORDED OCTOBER 19, 1805, UPON VIEWING MOUNT ST. HELENS FOR THE FIRST TIME.

In 1804, America had owned the Louisiana Purchase for only a year. This vast expanse of 828,000 square miles had been inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years, but few others had ventured far into its uncharted depths.

President Thomas Jefferson was curious about the land west of the Mississippi River. Having appropriated $2,500 from Congress to fund a "Corps of Discovery," Jefferson commissioned his 31-year-old personal secretary, Meriwether Lewis, to explore the West. Lewis selected a friend, 35-year-old army lieutenant William Clark, to be his second in command.

The mission of Lewis and Clark and their party of 26 was to travel by boat up the Missouri River to locate its source, cross the Continental Divide, and descend the Columbia River to its mouth - which had been discovered a decade earlier by American sea captain Robert Gray. They were to return by the best means possible.

Setting out from near St. Louis on May 14, 1804, and returning by the same route on September 23, 1806, the Corps of Discovery traveled nearly 8,000 miles and was even given up for lost. Yet with the exception of one desertion, the entire Corps returned sale and healthy.

The Corps of Discovery lived up to its name. Its members were the first to see much that had been completely unknown to Americans and Europeans - or known only from rumor, such as the grizzly bear and the Rocky Mountains.

The daily life of the expedition was characterized by new vistas at every turn. Some of those vistas are forever lost to modern man, such as herds of bison numbering in the millions. Others, such as majestic Mount St. Helens, are today as awe-inspiring as when first viewed by the Corps.

Today's mortgage bankers: Technological explorers

In many ways, today's mortgage bankers are like Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery. They are charting new territory and meeting unexpected challenges. Resourceful mortgage bankers are using technology to discover new vistas of opportunity.

Microsoft[R] Windows[R] is one of the exciting technologies that is opening up new and inspiring vistas of business opportunity, especially in loan origination. Yet despite its promise, Windows remains misunderstood by many, underappreciated by some and even feared by others. As in the uncharted West of 1804, myths and rumors abound.

So what's the truth about Windows? How can you distinguish between the different versions of Windows? What should you be looking for in a Windows-based computer program for loan origination? And why should you think about giving up your familiar MS-DOS-based origination software in favor of something that runs under Windows? Won't it be expensive to switch?

Good questions. Let's discover some answers.

What is Microsoft Windows and why should you care?

Microsoft Windows: The growing trend. If your organization is like most in the financial industry, you probably use IBM-compatible personal computers (PCs) to manage much of your business. Accounting, word processing, and data base management are but a few of the standard business functions managed with PCs. In the mortgage banking business, you're using PCs to automate such processes as mortgage prequalification, loan origination, flood certification, credit data confirmation and secondary marketing.

And if you're like many mortgage bankers, many (if not most) of your PCs are still running Microsoft MS-DOS[R] as their operating system. A computer's operating system (OS) is its brains and soul, the basic software package that controls every computer's basic functions. Without operating system software, a PC would be nothing but an oversized doorstop.

Unfortunately, if your organization's PCs are running MS-DOS, you may be running toward a technological dead end.

That's because MS-DOS is on its way out. The latest release of MS-DOS, version 6.2, is the last official, full release of MS-DOS that Microsoft plans to introduce. Because of the overwhelming trend toward Windows, MS-DOS-based software development, enhancement, and support is likely to cease within a few years. Could the new millennium signal the end of the MS-DOS age? Many experts think so.

Survival at stake?

Microsoft Windows is the personal computer OS for which more and more independent software vendors (ISVs) are writing programs (also called "applications"). For that reason alone, moving your lending software to Windows is likely to become a necessity for survival.

And new delivery channels are opening up that will make Windows even more of a necessity. According to a recent Booz-Allen & Hamilton survey, the Internet could be the source of up to 30 percent of all retail banking profits by the year 2000. Bill Burnham, a Booz-Allen associate and the leader of the Internet banking study, said that "on-line customers will clearly be the more profitable [and] much of the profitability we are talking about is on the loan side" (Jeffrey Kutler, "Internet Seen Generating 30 percent of Bank Retail Profits by 2000," American Banker, July 11, 1996, p. 22).

Microsoft isn't content to control just the OS software arena - the world's largest software company is making an energetic effort to dominate the Internet software market as well. Currently about 80 to 90 percent of all Internet computing is done by means of Netscape Communication Corporation's famous Navigator line of World Wide Web "browsing" software products.

In one of the latest salvos in what industry analysts are calling the computing market battle of the '90s, Microsoft introduced version 3.0 of its increasingly popular Internet Explorer "Web browser" software in August 1996. And Internet Explorer is fully integrated into and provided free with both Windows 95 and Windows NT version 4.0.

The "War of the Web" has been undertaken in earnest. Will Microsoft's David vanquish Netscape's Goliath? Only time will tell.

Which brings us back to MS-DOS. Unfortunately, you can't surf the Internet with it - you need a graphical user interface (GUI, or "gooey"), which is available only with a Windows, Macintosh, OS/2 Warp or UNIX operating system. And with the Internet shaping up to soon be the source for a significant percentage of your profits, can you afford to do without Windows? And can you afford not to move soon, to be ready ahead of your competition?

Windows is winning over mortgage bankers

After a stormy introduction, Bill Gates and Microsoft are aggressively wooing the financial industry by positioning the Windows 95 and Windows NT operating systems as the industry's comprehensive, logical and affordable choices in computing platforms.

Lending systems are among Microsoft's prime targets in its goal of Windows market dominance. An increasing number of software vendors are introducing robust lending systems and products that are based completely on Windows, including such long-term industry players as American Computer Solutions, Contour Software, Dynatek, FIS, Fiserv and Interlinq. These and many other software providers have introduced Windows-based loan origination and processing programs. Even the complexities of secondary marketing and loan servicing are now being handled by increasingly powerful Windows-driven PC-based systems.

Windows yields innovative mortgage-banking success. If you've been reading the mortgage-banking trade journals lately, you're seeing how Windows is changing the way mortgage bankers do business:

* People are completing mortgage loan applications over the Internet from Windows-based PCs.

* New Windows-based document imaging systems can enable you to electronically file and retrieve loan documents in seconds.

* If you read this magazine, you may have read a September 1996 story about Citicorp Mortgage's live, interactive, Windows-based Video Mortgage Center. This new system allows customers of RE/MAX Associates in Des Pers, Missouri (near St. Louis), to take advantage of the CitiQuik mortgage approval process. The video mortgage system connects RE/MAX's mortgage prospects to a live, Connecticut-based CitiCorp mortgage consultant for almost instantaneous loan approvals.

Yet as impressive and useful as these technological marvels are, they're not the norm.

Most implementations of Windows-based software are not nearly as glamorous. For many organizations, a conversion to Windows is simply a quiet business decision. And it's on the increasing strength of these quiet decisions that Windows is rapidly becoming the de facto standard OS for the mortgage banking industry.

Tom Ahart, manager of loan administration at $9.5 billion Roosevelt Bank in St. Louis, Missouri, says that his organization is a "completely MS-DOS bank." Despite a few PCs running Windows 3.x, Windows 95, and Windows NT, Roosevelt is still developing its overall Windows implementation strategy.

"We're going to have to spend money on hardware and software. There'll be training dollars involved. So we're now evaluating our computer systems in their entirety, throughout the enterprise," Ahart says.

Caution is common. Roosevelt's cautious approach to Windows implementation is common, according to Linda Lee, vice president of Alternatech, a software consultant firm headquartered in Peoria, Illinois.

"We work with about 30 banking organizations, with average assets of about $500 million," Lee says. "While they all run some Windows-based business programs [such as Microsoft Word[R] and Excel[R]], none of their mission-critical software runs under Windows."

"Our thrift clients tend to be rather conservative, and some will probably end up being forced to convert to Windows," notes Lee, who also teaches college-level Windows user classes. "In contrast, the mortgage companies I'm familiar with tend to be more aggressive. They're more proactive in adopting Windows. They believe their staffs gain productivity from Windows' built-in ease of use and multitasking capabilities, and they're more eager to use new technology," she says.

Some mortgage lenders are plunging headfirst into the Windows environment. Karen Hollister, loan operations manager at First Federal Bank of Lake County in Leesburg, Florida, has a decidedly progressive viewpoint: "We're all running Windows at First Federal," she says of her $320 million organization.

"We've got about 50 PCs, and we're all using Windows 3.1 - except for a few PCs with more memory that we've used to install and test Windows 95," she indicates. "Our president says that Windows is the way to go, and we'll probably have all our PCs converted to Windows 95 by early 1997."

MS-DOS and Windows: Worlds apart

Big differences, big decisions. MS-DOS is character- and command-based. When working with MS-DOS-based software, users navigate through software functions by means of their computer keyboards. They must enter memorized, character-based commands or press specific keys and key combinations to access software functions.

Unfortunately, the commands and keys are often different for every piece of software. And MS-DOS software usually lacks the sophisticated and polished functionality of modern Windows-based programs. Also, development and support of MS-DOS-based programs will not continue much longer.

However, the hardware demands of MS-DOS software are a mere fraction of those of Windows programs. Most current MS-DOS-based software packages - even networked versions - can run on a 386-based PC with only 4 megabytes of RAM, an 80-megabyte hard drive and a 14-inch VGA monitor. For you non-techies, we're talking about a simple, basically obsolete hardware setup that can only be bought used (for about $150).

On the other hand, Windows is a modern OS that features the computer industry's leading GUI. Today's GUIs trace their roots to experimental computers developed in the 1970s at Xerox Corporation's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). The GUI concept was introduced to the public in the early 1980s with Apple Computer's short-lived, overweight and overpriced Lisa computer. The Lisa quickly evolved into Apple's easy-to-use Macintosh computer, which now plays a dominant role in the graphics, publishing and educational computer markets.

GUI advantages. Some of the benefits of a GUI are increased ease of use, improved productivity, better efficiency, and uniformity between programs. To start a program or perform a function, GUI users use a mouse to point at a screen icon and then click a mouse button (no unique commands to type, no arcane keystroke combinations to memorize).

GUIs mandate that software functions be performed in the same way for all programs. For example, the COPY function works exactly the same in all Windows-based programs, whether you're working with Corel WordPerfect or Microsoft Excel.

But here's the bad news: GUI-based software packages and the hardware needed to run them are more expensive and complex than MS-DOS-based software. Most PC users agree that for a PC to efficiently run today's memory- and disk-hogging business programs under Windows 95, you'll need a Pentium-compatible CPU chip running at a minimum of 100 MHz, about 16 megabytes of RAM, several hundred megabytes of free disk space, and a 15-inch SVGA monitor. That's a low-end system that can be bought for a minimum of about $1,500.

Alphabet soup

Crash. It's a word that's all too familiar to users of Windows 3.x.

Just last year, loan-origination techmeister Bruce Forge published this oft-repeated Windows 3.x lament: "In my opinion, Windows is still far too unstable for mission-critical work. I use Windows every day for word processing, graphics, writing...and so on. But not for loan processing. Random system faults, the dreaded General Protection Fault, and mysterious system lock-ups are almost daily fare.

"It took me nearly three days and a number of conversations on the Microsoft 900 number to resolve one such problem. Do that with a dozen or more loans waiting for documents in an increasing interest-rate market, and then tell me you want your lifeline in Windows. Maybe someday, when the [Windows] platform is as stable as DOS became, but not yet" (Bruce Forge, "Software Review," p. 50, Mortgage Originator, August 1995).

Bruce's prayers were answered in large part by the introduction in August 1995 of Windows 95. But from a certain sense, they had already been answered with the August 1993 release of Windows NT, Microsoft's high-powered, crash-resistant, network-ready, business-specific OS. Although certainly not flawless operating systems, Windows 95 and especially Windows NT are generally acknowledged to be sufficiently stable for mission-critical business applications.

The fall of Windows 3.x. With the release of Windows 95, Windows 3.x is being phased out. Cursed with a confusing interface, poor memory-handling capabilities, and spotty reliability, Windows 3.x has passed the baton to its moviestar successor, Windows 95. Development and support efforts for Windows 3.x and its application software are declining almost as rapidly as those for MS-DOS.

So your OS decision really boils down to just two choices: Windows 95 or Windows NT. (You could look at IBM's OS/2 Warp or UNIX, but neither of those operating systems is poised to dominate the marketplace.)

Between Windows 95 and NT, Microsoft's new operating systems are now being adopted by business at a record pace. Windows 95 is geared toward home and basic business use; NT is targeted at high-end, networked power users.

The rise of NT. Just a short time ago, industry analysts were dismissing Windows NT as a wimpy OS that could never hope to overtake the market dominance of UNIX, the quirky but powerful and "open" OS that has satisfied much of the world's midrange industrial computing needs for more than 20 years.

The analysts were wrong. Very wrong.

According to Dwight B. Davis, editorial director of the Windows Watcher newsletter, although "Windows 95 [now has] an installed base of about 40 to 45 million units, Windows NT has been the Microsoft success story of 1996."

Davis points out that "NT Workstation has eclipsed Windows 95 as Microsoft's clear choice for corporate desktop PCs. [Microsoft] claims NT Server [the "file-server" version of NT] is shipping 100,000 units per quarter. At that pace, NT Server has already surpassed the annual sales rate of all the UNIX variants combined. On the file and print server front, NT should [soon] surpass the sale rate of Novell's Netware [the current leader in local-area-network software."] (Dwight B. Davis, "NT versus UNIX? No contest," Datamation, August 1996, p. 140).

Strength in networking. One of NT's greatest strengths is its built-in networking capabilities. According to PC Computing magazine, "with Windows NT, networking isn't an afterthought; it's the whole point" (Ed Bott and Woody Leonhard, "Networking with NT," PC Computing, September 1996, p. 160).

Networking ability should be an important factor in evaluating an OS. The days of the stand-alone mortgage banker are all but over - linking your office staff with a reliable and efficient computer network is one of the keys to mortgage banking success in the '90s. That's because a networked office communicates better and is more productive.

According to Microsoft, both Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 provide a common base of functionality, including ease of use, power, connectivity and manageability. Microsoft says it is committed to providing similar basic functionality (such as the user interface) for both Windows 95 and NT. The newly released Windows NT version 4.0 even incorporates the friendly, now-familiar user interface of Windows 95.

The differences between the two platforms stem from their differing design goals. For example, Windows 95 is focused on making PC-based computing easier for a wide range of personal and business computer users who run both desktop and portable PCs. To protect their past investment in hardware and software, these users need the highest possible level of compatibility with their existing MS-DOS and Windows 3.x programs and device drivers.

On the other hand, the mission of Windows NT is to become the most powerful desktop operating system available for solving complex business problems. For technical, engineering, financial and business users, NT is designed to deliver the highest possible level of performance to support the most demanding programs. NT also provides higher levels of reliability, protection and security for software that simply cannot crash.

In addition, NT is designed to exploit the latest hardware innovations (such as the recent crop of new, lightning-fast processors and multi-processor workstations). NT's focus on solving business needs is also reflected in its emphasis on regular maintenance and updates.

But NT's impact on system resources may prove to be one of its biggest challenges in the cost-conscious mortgage market of the '90s. PC Week magazine (Michael Canton and Christopher Yates, "NT Workstation," PC Week, Aug. 5, 1996, p. 19) strongly recommends a bare minimum NT Workstation hardware configuration of a 75-MHz Pentium processor and 24 megabytes of RAM for "adequate" performance. That means several pricey upgrades (or an expensive replacement) for most PCs that are more than 18 months old.

But will NT play in Peoria? According to Linda Lee, it's the cost of hardware upgrades that keeps many organizations from making a Windows commitment. "More than anything else, the cost of upgrading is the biggest issue I see," she says.

Roosevelt's Ahart agrees. "Margins in the mortgage banking industry have continued to be squeezed and squeezed," he notes. "In that kind of business climate, the cost of new technology is causing the industry to drag its feet. Unfortunately, when you drag your feet too long, you've got an even bigger problem when you finally do move: You can't keep up with just one technological jump; you've got to make two or three, and that gets even more expensive."

And the state of the art keeps advancing. Over time, as basic PCs become more powerful, technologies that were introduced in NT will migrate to Windows 95 (what Microsoft calls its mainstream OS). But that's not a hard-and-fast rule - Microsoft says that occasionally innovations will appear first in Windows 95 because of such considerations as release timing or because certain features may be focused on mainstream ease of use. The folks from Redmond, Washington, say their "guiding principle for product planning" is for NT to provide a "superset" of the functionality in Windows 95.

The OS decision isn't that much of an issue for software (often called "application") developers. For them, Microsoft now provides only one Windows programming platform, defined by two standards (known as Win32 and OLE). By following a few simple guidelines, developers can produce a single product that runs across the entire Windows OS product family.

Originating loans with MS-DOS and Windows: What's the difference?

Loan-origination applications that run under Windows 95 and Windows NT are relatively new in the marketplace. Many vendors are just now introducing Windows versions of their lending software. So far, few users are reporting earth-shaking differences between MS-DOS- and Windows-based loan originations.

"You'll get benefits when you switch from MS-DOS to Windows - but they're not nearly as huge as when you go from a manual system to your first computer," observes Ahart.

Many of those using Windows 95 and NT report that the biggest difference between MS-DOS and Windows originations lies in the increased overall productivity that comes from the ease of use, reliability, multitasking capabilities, and standardization that is possible only from the newer Windows platforms.

"Windows 95 and NT are not better from a sheer cost perspective," says Ahart. "But if you can get your job done more quickly through multi-tasking and greater reliability, you'll drive your costs down with productivity gains. That's what we're looking for," he says. (For more information about whether you should choose Windows 95 or NT, refer to the sidebar titled "Which OS Is Best for You?")

NT: Not totally OK. Microsoft wants Windows NT 4.0 to appear attractive to business users. But there are several caveats that the savvy user should note. For example:

* While from an overall perspective Windows NT Server 4.0 is a solid network server environment, it is still characterized by version 3.51's frustrating deficiencies in network resource management. Network managers, look before you leap.

* Direct "plug and play" support (for the effortless hardware connectivity that Apple Macintosh users have enjoyed for more than a decade) is still missing from NT Workstation 4.0. Cross your fingers when connecting your peripherals!

* Lack of support for the power-management features of all but the latest high-end notebook PCs makes NT 4.0 a poor choice for many mobile users.

* While migration from NT 3.51 and Windows 3.x to NT 4.0 is relatively painless, Microsoft currently offers no migration path from Windows 95 to Windows NT. In fact, because of architectural differences, an automatic migration is not currently possible. To move from 95 to NT, you'll need to reinstall every program on your hard drive from scratch.

Should you consider switching to Windows? The real issue is not who should switch to Windows - it's pretty much inevitable for everyone. No, the real question is when you should make the switch.

Microsoft publishes huge volumes of information (much of it accessible on the Internet at www.microsoft.com) that can help you decide how to proceed. Other helpful resources are available on CD-ROM and in print format - check out your local bookstore or software retailer for a wide selection of Windows 95 and NT decision-making aids.

What to look for when selecting Windows-based origination software

At the heart of the matter, there are only three basic questions to ask yourself when planning to switch from MS-DOS or Windows 3.x to Windows 95 or Windows NT:

* The software preservation question. Do you need to preserve an investment in older, non-upgradeable or irreplaceable MS-DOS software? If you answer "yes," it's a no-brainer: You need Windows 95. There's no other OS option if you can't upgrade or replace your existing MS-DOS software. That's because NT isn't designed to support MS-DOS software.

* The special features question. Do you need the specialized features that Windows NT offers? For example, your mission-critical software may need NT's robust multitasking and crash resistance. Or NT's advanced security features may be exactly what you've been looking for. If your existing software can run under it, Windows NT may be right for you.

* The affordability question. Can you afford the hardware and other systems costs associated with Windows NT? NT is significantly more expensive than Windows 95 and may require major upgrades in memory, hard drives, printers and more. So count the cost of NT before you proceed. As much as you could use NT, you may not be able to cost-justify it.

PC Week recently reported that Southern California Edison (SCE) is taking three years and spending $55 million to upgrade its 11,000 employees to the company's new desktop standard, Windows 95 ("Pay the Piper," by Rusty Weston, PC Week, Aug. 19, 1996; p. E1).

Yet despite record sales of 40 million copies (making Windows 95 the most successful software package in history), even Microsoft concedes that the vast majority of businesses have yet to widely adopt Windows 95.

However, a PC Week Executive Windows Satisfaction Survey indicates that where Windows 95 is in wide deployment, users are generally satisfied, and the majority of information systems (IS) managers expect a payback on their investment within six months.

These statistics confirm general reports that Windows 95 offers solid improvement over Windows 3.x in such vital business areas as ease of use, reliability, manageability and networkability. SCE reports that support calls go down by 60 percent when departments make the switch from MS-DOS and Windows 3.x systems.

However, not all industry experts are eager to jump on the Windows 95 bandwagon. "I am very suspicious of return-on-investment arguments on technological investments, most of which are pure BS," observes Jeffrey Held, a partner at Ernst & Young in New York. "The jury is still out on whether [Windows 95] will really have an impact on support costs," he maintains ("Pay the Piper," Weston, PC Week; Aug. 19, 1996, p. E6).

Building a case. As more and more software packages are released that run only on Windows 95 and NT, an increasing number of businesses are better able to justify the up-front expense of migrating. The Gartner Group, Inc., of Stamford, Connecticut, says that Windows 95 converts aren't regretting their decisions.

According to Gartner vice president and research director Bill Kirwin, most of Gartner's clients who have made the switch are pleased. Those who have put together a payback analysis "believe they are getting their conversion costs back in six to 18 months," he says (Weston, PC Week; Aug. 19, 1996, E6).

Just don't migrate to Windows without careful planning. There's no substitute for doing your homework, so study carefully when you begin to plan your conversion. "Do your homework and talk to your peers," advises Ahart.

"Do a careful cost study, and maybe test the new system on a few people to make sure that's the way you want to go," counsels Lee. "You may decide you need to implement Windows 95 throughout your organization, but if it takes a year or two, that's OK."

Don't forget the costs of training your personnel to work in the new OS environment. The good news? If you've kept up with the times, training costs may be minimal. SCE reports that only a half-day of Windows 95 training is needed for most Windows 3.x users.

Bright vistas

The future holds several exciting new technologies for loan originators, including widespread use of interactive loan kiosks for rapid and convenient mortgage prequalification, application, and approval. CitiCorp and RE/MAX are already doing it in St. Louis. "We love our Video Mortgage Center," said Judy Brown of RE/MAX. "We've got it installed in two of our offices. It really speeds up the approval process."

In addition, it won't be long before "nothin'-but-'net" mortgages are common. When every aspect of application, processing and closing is efficiently handled by means of secure Internet transactions, the "cyber-mortgage" will be simply another money-making delivery channel for innovative mortgage bankers.

"When we make our move to Windows, we'll probably bypass laptop originations," says Ahart. Roosevelt Bank is trying to reduce labor costs by automating as much of the mortgage process as possible. "We're looking at automated loan machines [ALMs], kiosks and Internet originations," he says. "We want to drive down our costs through productivity gains, and we definitely factor productivity into our software decisions."

Opening up new vistas. Like Lewis and Clark, Microsoft has staked its claim in the financial industry and has explored the territory. And like the eventual dominance of the United States on the North American continent, Windows 95 and Windows NT seem to be here to stay.

Because of their inevitability, you can't afford to ignore the technological changes that are shaping the future of your business. So stay abreast of market developments. Subscribe to a leading PC trade journal, and read it while it's fresh on your desk. Stay abreast of developments in your industry, and check your technological progress against the competition. Stay in touch with your friends in the business. Discover new vistas of opportunity with your peers.

New Windows-based technologies entering the market promise to make loan origination faster, more convenient and more productive than ever. These new technologies are serving as market equalizers, with the only real limits being your creativity.

In the next decade, even small mortgage-banking organizations with Windows-based software will gain full access to the largest customer base in the history of our nation.

Your new vistas await you around the next bend.

RELATED ARTICLE: WHICH OS IS BEST FOR YOU?

Most folks outside Microsoft agree: Many people - even many IS professionals couldn't tell Windows 95 from Windows NT Workstation 4.0 if their lives depended on it. That's why so many companies feel compelled to test both systems, to find out which one best meets their needs.

Microsoft's position, while unknown to many, is clear: The company sees Windows 95 as the easiest and most affordable way to a "32-bit" desktop, while NT 4.0's reliability, security and networkability features are better suited to those needing the most powerful 32-bit operating environment available. Consider these scenarios from Microsoft:

* In many office environments, people use different computer programs to perform a variety of office tasks such as word processing, data base queries, spreadsheet analysis or other functions particular to their business (such as loan origination). Most companies have a well-established base of PCs, peripherals and programs, and they want to preserve their existing investment in computing infrastructure. Best choice: Windows 95.

* Some organizations have staff who spend lots of time away from the office - at customer or prospect sites, in hotels, on the road or in the field. Mobile computer users have program and printer compatibility requirements similar to those of their office-bound counterparts. However, road warriors also need an OS that places minimal demands on their hardware (such as RAM, batteries and disk space). Best choice: Windows 95.

* A broad spectrum of industries (such as banking and defense) need to protect sensitive computerized data. Best choice: Windows NT. That's because NT is well designed to help prevent unauthorized access to systems and data. A Windows NT system can even be shared by multiple users and still maintain security for all system files.

* Other users demand high levels of uptime and performance. They can't afford downtime, regardless of the programs they run. These users' systems are sometimes being downsized from minicomputers or mainframe systems. For example, many modern manufacturing systems use Windows 3.x-based programs to manage production lines. Best choice: Windows NT. That's because NT easily and reliably runs Windows 3.x programs. And if one program fails, others keep running. NT also provides comprehensive protection for newer programs and can automatically recover if the system goes down.

* Is ease of use your main consideration? Best choice: Either Windows 95 or NT. Both Windows 95 and Windows NT Workstation 4.0 now have the same friendly GUI (which with each new version becomes more like its inspiration, Apple's Mac OS).

RELATED ARTICLE: THE TOP 10 FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN SELECTING WINDOWS-BASED LOAN ORIGINATION SOFTWARE

With apologies to David Letterman, here are the top 10 factors to consider when buying a Windows-based loan origination system:

NUMBER 10. Does the software provide a seamless interface to automated underwriting systems such as Freddie Mac's Loan Prospector[SM] and Fannie Mae's Desktop Underwriter[TM]? Electronic links to automated underwriters can slash underwriting approval time from days or weeks to minutes. Don't lend without it.

NUMBER 9. Is the software flexible? You probably don't need a system that can't be customized to match your unique business requirements. Does the software enable you to define your own fields, workflows and screens to match the way your organization does business?

NUMBER 8. What kind of background does the vendor have in developing software for loan origination? Is the program the company's first offering, or does the vendor have a solid track record with previous, successful products?

NUMBER 7. Is a custom report writer included with the standard software package? Sure, you could use an aftermarket report-writer, but then you'd need to design all the reports yourself. Look for a comprehensive report-writing module to be included in the base price of your new origination system.

NUMBER 6. Can "non-techie" users navigate easily through the software's functions? Windows-based software should be intuitive, artfully designed and easy for a novice to understand. Don't settle for less.

NUMBER 5. Does the software offer a complete and integrated suite of functions? Or do you have to purchase an entire group of modules to get basic functionality? You don't need to be "nickel-and-dimed," so choose a complete, "soup-to-nuts," integrated system.

NUMBER 4. What will your new Windows-based origination software force you to spend for system upgrades? You'll likely need to upgrade your existing PCs when you switch to Windows 95 or NT, but can you afford the CPU, RAM and hard-drive upgrades that some systems demand? Can you justify the cost of upgrading needed "legacy" software to run under the OS required by your new system? And can you afford the additional training costs involved with the new software?

NUMBER 3. Is the software cross-platform compatible? For example, does it run only under Windows NT? Or can it run under both NT and Windows 95? Unless you run only one OS (not very likely in most organizations), look for as much cross-platform flexibility as possible.

NUMBER 2. If you're licensing software for Windows 95 or NT, is the software a complete, "native Windows" application? Is the software fully compliant with the industry design specifications for Windows Open Software Architecture (WOSA) and the interface connectivity standards for Open Data Base Connectivity (ODBC)? Some "Windows" systems are really just tired old MS-DOS software with a Windows "front end." Just say "no" to repackaged legacy programs - they won't take you where you want to go.

NUMBER 1. Have you rolled out the Windows welcome mat? Attitude is everything when your future is at stake, so have an open mind when it comes to Windows. Be willing to pull up your MS-DOS roots and move ahead. Windows 95 and NT are not the wave of the future for mortgage originators - they're the wave of now. So welcome them as friends. When implemented thoughtfully, they can give you a decided edge in productivity and competitiveness. And they are opening the doors to new and profitable delivery channels, such as the Internet.

Jeff Berg serves as senior marketing communications coordinator for FIS, Inc., the Orlando-based developer of easy LENDER, a PC-based loan-origination software package.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Mortgage Bankers Association of America
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related articles on selection of operating systems and Windows-based loan origination software; Windows-based technologies
Author:Berg, Jeff
Publication:Mortgage Banking
Date:Oct 1, 1996
Words:5909
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