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Perestroika comes to Atari-land.

A few months ago, we had dinner with Atari Corp.'s new applications vice president, Antonio Salerno. Salerno said he was looking for ways to revive Atari's third-party software effort, which he admitted was less than healthy.

"Forget the usual handouts and welfare programs for developers," we advised. "The best model for third-party support is Gorbachev's perestroika policy. Gorbachev insisted that if you eliminate the bureaucrats and open up the marketplace, you'll have all the entrepreneurs you need--even in an economic wasteland like the Atari market."

How does perestroika apply to third-party software developers? Salerno asked. "Simple," we said. Just give your third-party developers copies of Atari's customer and dealer lists, with no strings attached. Cut out the marketing bureaucracy and let developers sell direct to Atari's installed base. That's a chance no red-blooded entrepreneur will pass up," we insisted.

However, we pointed out, marketing departments are notoriously paranoid about losing control of customer names. "They'll bury your developers in red tape and then complain that nobody uses the program," we predicted. Well, it turns out we were a bit too pessimistic. In last month's Atari Development Partner Newsletter, Salerno broke the good news: Registered Atari developers will now get a disk containing the names and addresses of some 40,000 registered Atari ST owners, plus a complete dealer list. Updates to the customer list will go out monthly, Salerno promises, and--to help developers target specific customer categories--Atari will soon start adding more detailed demographic data to its lists. Frankly, we're impressed. Sharing customer names with third-party developers sounds like an obvious strategy, but we know how much resistance this idea has met elsewhere in the industry. Microsoft, Lotus, Ashton-Tate, and most of the major hardware vendors continue to pay lip service to support for third-party developers. But let developers actually get their grubby hands on customer lists? That's too radical.

We don't know if Salerno's version of perestroika will be enough to revive the moribund Atari developer community. But it's a step in the right direction--and it's an example we hope a lot more companies decide to emulate.
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Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:discussion with Atari Corp. applications VP Antonio Salerno
Publication:Soft-Letter
Date:Feb 3, 1990
Words:349
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