October 29, 2002

Why TrueSpectra Image Server now runs on Linux

- By Robin 'Roblimo' Miller -
David Watkins, TrueSpectra's president & CEO, says the decision to release a Linux port of TrueSpectra Image Server was a cold, hard business calculation based purely on market demand. (TrueSpectra's move into Linux was formally announced yesterday.)

"Many of our customers have been in the retail space," Watkins says, "but over the last 6 to 12 months we've been getting into manufacturing and education, where a lot of customers are using Linux. It's almost a requirement to deal with some of them."

TrueSpectra already had Solaris 7 and 8 versions out, so creating a Linux version was no big deal. Watkins says, "The port went very smoothly. The actual development work took about two weeks, plus testing, but we had other things we were doing with our products at the same time so the completed package took a little longer than that. It was a simple migration, very straighforward."

This is not a product for home use. Prices start around $8500 for the base server and go up from there. Blockbuster uses TrueSpectra Image Server. Macy's uses it. So do many smaller companies, says Watkins, mostly ones that run sites with a lot of constantly-changing images or images that must be displayed in different sizes on different pages.

Before you ask, yes, this product is a natural for porn sites, and TrueSpectra may get more customers in that business before long. "We have a couple of [porn] sites as customers," Watkins says, "but we didn't have a Linux product, and that was a barrier."

Another problem dealing with porn sites, noted by many Web hosting services over the years, and mentioned by Watkins during our phone conversation last week, is that "some of them aren't very reputable to do business with. We got stiffed a few times. We would like to open up that market -- it's kind of interesting -- but we need to stick to major brands like Playboy.com, and get cash in advance from most others."

There is also a huge potential market for TrueSpectra in the Web hosting marketplace that serves businesses too small to have their own servers, let alone image servers -- especially now that TrueSpectra has broken the Linux barrier -- but Watkins says this side of the business is in "sort of a chicken and egg" situation; hosting companues want to see demand for this kind of service before they invest in it, but unless they invest in it there will be no demand. Watkins says TrueSpectra expects to make an announcement about something along these lines sometime in November, but can't discuss potential Web hosting clients quite yet.

TrueSpectra is still on what Watkins calls "the bad side financially," but, he also says, "It's getting better. We're a small company -- less than 20 people -- and we ought to be profitable next year because of the the Linux product and some new marketing."

The main thing, Watkins says, "is to focus on real companies that pay their bills," rather than dot-coms (or flaky porn operators). For example, he says, TrueSpectra just did a deal with Mens Wearhouse, a fast-growing retail clothing chain.

Watkins sees both Web image serving and Linux as growth markets. On the specialized image serving side, he says, "A couple of years ago, what we saw in image serving was more in the adult segment. Then the big retailers jumped in, now it's spreading beyond that." On the Linux side, he says, "We're seeing -- in the current market environment -- that Linux offers companies a lot of value, and our company extends that value.

"Linux is a platform people trust in corporate America. Our new Linux product creates a great opportunity for us."

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