Cornell backs away from NeXT, cites lack of resources

by Dan Lavin

Ithaca, NY Cornell University, one of NeXT's earliest higher-education clients, has sold the machines out of its NeXT lab to make room for other platforms and announced that it will no longer resell or service NeXTs through its campus store. Both NeXT and Cornell characterized the moves as a mutual decision that resulted from a lack of resources on both sides.

The announcement came as a surprise because Cornell was a core school in NeXT's higher-education program. Stuart Lynn, Cornell's vice-president for information technologies, has served on NeXT's advisory board since 1988. He resigned as part of these developments.

According to both parties, NeXT's leveraged-sales model could not provide enough resources to maintain a sales momentum at Cornell. With tightening academic budgets, some universities have increasingly relied on vendors to develop computing solutions directly with individual faculty and staff members by providing free seed machines and financing the developement of software solutions. "[NeXT's] particular corporate strategy did not fit a Cornell profile," said Lynn.

Noting that computers are upgraded every few years at Cornell, Lynn stressed that the door remains open to NeXT and that the situation could be only temporary.

NeXT has recently developed a distributed approach to selling in the higher-education market, using a direct-sales force to empower strong on-campus advocates for the platform. Sales to schools in the first half of 1992 were "very strong," according to Bob Longo, NeXT's director of educational sales.

By allowing its sales force to recruit campus advocates rather than try to make direct sales to schools such as Cornell, NeXT has become active on far more campuses. Three hundred schools now buy machines directly from NeXT and act as "hub" resellers to an additional 200 schools. Longo cited recent big sales to ITESM in Monterrey, Mexico, and York University in Toronto, as well as steadily growing sales at schools such as Michigan State and Stanford University, as a validation of NeXT's strategy.

Cornell faculty and students can still buy machines and obtain service through a "spoke" relationship with NeXT reseller Renssellaer Polytechnic University in Troy, New York. Service and support will also be available directly through NeXTedge. "We don't see this as a parting," said Longo.