Microsoft releases Content Management Server

Price Bomb

Earlier this summer Microsoft acquired the Canadian company NCompass and its Resolution content management product. This has now been released as Content Management Server (CMS) 2001.

The two biggest differences between Resolution and CMS are their platform support and their pricing. As far as platform support is concerned the former runs under both Windows NT and Windows 2000, while CMS only runs under Windows 2000. According to Microsoft this is because the product offers significantly better performance on Windows 2000. No doubt this is true but you don't need us to explain the other potential reasons for dropping support for Windows NT.

The other big difference is the pricing. NCompass sold Resolution in unbundled format with a base price of $59,000 per server. If you wanted the server-clustering add-on this amounted to a further $25,000.

Then there was a site deployment manager that allowed you to deploy content from Resolution server to another, which retailed for a further $10,000. And, finally, there was a content connector module for integration between Resolution and Microsoft’s Commerce Server 2000. This was yet another $10,000. All in all a total of $79,000 for a single server and with prices starting at $163,000 in server-clustering environments. Of course, content is so crucial for most companies that the thought of implementing it on a single server is likely to be anathema. So $163,000 would be the starting price for most companies.

Microsoft, however, has bundled all of these components into CMS and the recommended retail price is $39,901 (why does it bother with the "1"?) per CPU. So, for a two server system you are talking about a starting price of $79,802, which is less than half price of the previous NCompass figure.

Given than NCompass’ prices were competitive with other vendors in the market such as BroadVision, Vignette and so on, how much of a bombshell will this sort of price cut have on the market? Obviously it will have a significant effect but the undercut is not as great as it might appear. This is because implementation costs are usually reckoned to be about equal to the cost of the software (though there are exceptions to this rule, Eprise for example, major on their reduced implementation costs at about half of the norm). So, assuming that implementation costs remain the same then total costs are reduced from $326,000 to $242,802. Still a hefty saving but now only around 25 per cent.

But that is not the end of the issue. If there is one thing that Microsoft is good at, it is making things easy to use. No doubt it will build suitable tools and add them to the product over the course of time. These will reduce implementation complexity and reduce costs there also.

Nor is this the end of the problem for the traditional content management vendors. Computer Associates will shortly be announcing its Jasmine Advanced Content Management product. While details of this are not yet available we do expect that it will have Microsoft-level pricing.

This brings us to one further point. CMS integrates not only with Commerce Server but also with SharePoint Portal Server. Add the digital dashboard to these, plus Microsoft’s other products and you are well on the way to a full-blown Enterprise Information Portal. We expect a suitable announcement in the not too distant future and, no doubt, it will similarly undercut the market in terms of price and put the same sort of pressure on companies like Plumtree and Hummingbird.

Interestingly, Computer Associates’ Jasmine Portal is already priced at Microsoft levels and, within a year of its launch it has already become the market leader in terms of sales, with some 600. This is well ahead of the perceived market leader, Plumtree, which has only around 170 customers (though many of these, like Ford and Boeing, are much bigger than typical CA customers).

The bottom line is that shake-outs of the content management and enterprise portal markets have long been predicted. It starts in the former now, and the latter will not have long to wait.


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