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ASP Trade Group Joins CompTIA

Calling it a natural evolution, ASP Industry Consortium (ASPIC) chairman Paula Hunter announced today that the Wakefield, Mass.-based group that helped define the ASP industry will be acquired by Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA).

Hunter told ASPnews that the reason for the decision lies in the difference between an advocacy group and a full-fledged trade association. "ASPIC did a good job of increasing awareness, but as a volunteer advocacy group, it is was a challenge to increase adoption. It wasn't a scaleable model."

By becoming the ASP section of the 8,000-member CompTIA, ASPIC members will benefit from CompTIA's leadership role in establishing standards for e-commerce, professional certification, services, public policy and so on.

"It will be a tremendous benefit for our members," Hunter said. In addition to a broader membership, "we gain an audience of IT professionals who are watching CompTIA — which will help increase adoption."

"I'm thrilled," Gerard Kane, director of CompTIA's trustmark program, told ASPnews. "ASPIC is a committed volunteer organization. It's a beautiful fit with our focus on best practices."

Kane said that CompTIA "will keep all that is good" about ASPIC, which includes the ASPIRE awards, the ASPIC Web site and the involvement of industry leaders who shaped ASPIC. Kane said the current board of directors will become an advisory board that will help direct ongoing programs.

ASPIC membership fees range from $2,500 to $15,000, depending on company revenue. Kane said CompTIA fees are comparable. Members will be rolled over to CompTIA and will maintain their renewal schedules, Hunter said. The transaction represents the fourth such acquisition for the Oakbrook Terrace, Ill-based CompTIA in 2001. Earlier this year, it joined with the Information Technology Training Association, the Convergence Technology Pioneers and the Electronics Industry Data Exchange Association.

Hunter said the ASPIC board of directors has approved the sale. However, the deal still needs to be approved by the membership. The process began today and, Hunter said, it should be wrapped up in about two weeks.

Is the acquisition as good a deal as Kane and Hunter portray or is it simply another sign of a troubled industry? Lew Hollerbach of The Aberbeen Group says it would have been difficult for ASPIC to sustain itself. "You have some companies going out of business and others who aren't going to pay memberships fees. They see it as discretionary spending." The numbers reinforce Hollerbach's observation. The consortium membership has from shrunk from 700 to less than 400.

"There are two ways to look at it," said Laurie McCabe, vice president and service director with Summit Strategies. "ASPs have been hit hard and many view the term as negative. The other way, and the way I see it, is that delivering software as service is changing. It makes sense to be part of a larger organization; they [ASPIC] can leverage the reach of CompTIA."

The timing was right for a change, McCabe told ASPnews. "Membership was dropping. I doubt ASPIC had much customer reach."

Both ASPIC's Hunter and CompTIA's Kane maintain today's announcement will serve to strengthen the ASP model and doesn't reflect any negative connotation of the term or signs of weakness in the market.

However, as McCabe points out the acquisition is also a telltale sign of a shift in the hosted application market. When ASPIC was formed in May 1999, "ASPs were a new breed — companies selling someone else's software. Now ISVs offer their own products as a service and companies like Salesforce.com are developing software specifically as a service. It's boiling down to just another way to deliver software."

In an industry as volatile as the ASP market, it's easy to look for signs of the apocalypse. But perhaps the initial, understated reactions of analysts Hollerbach and McCabe, respectively, say it best: "I'm not surprised" and "It makes sense."