Microsoft?s NT operating system has overtaken Unix in the workstation market for the first time, according to figures from research company IDC.
In 1997 IDC puts NT shipments in this sector at 1.3 million - an increase of over 80 per cent on the previous year - compared with 666,000 for Unix, a decline of seven per cent.
In 1996, sales were neck and neck, but now NT has snatched market share in an area that was Unix territory.
John Pattenden, product marketing manager at Sequent - which offers both Unix and NT - said: ?Unix used to dominate for technical areas and NT in the commercial area, but the parameters have merged as NT has improved in functionality and Intel processors are faster with more capability. There is greater availability of applications whereas they used to be more specific.?
Pattenden believes NT?s popularity will continue to grow. ?NT will be successful - driven on a wave of religious fervour. The migration to NT is universal as the dividing line between NT and Unix becomes more flexible.?
Dave Russell, product marketing manager at Tandem - which also offers both OSs - supported Pattenden?s view and believes NT is gaining the same robustness as Unix.
?NT has taken a lot of business from Unix. In the enterprise sector it was print and file share systems, but it has grown up into application areas. It?s a similar story on the desktop - in the last year high end Intel based workstations running NT have taken over from Unix based stations. Systems integrators have been telling me that Windows NT has been robust enough for critical applications ever since Windows NT 3.51.?
One reason for NT workstations' growing popularity is their price - at an average of $5,000 they sell at roughly one-third of the average price of a Unix machine.
This accounts for the fact that Unix machines still commanded significantly higher revenues, according to the IDC survey - $11.2 billion compared with $3.1 billion.
The vendors that are most affected by the changing OS positions are Sun Microsystems and Hewlett Packard. Sun sells only Unix and dominates the workstation market with 43 per cent of units. But HP - in second place with 16 per cent - comes top in the NT league, with 17.2 per cent of workstation units. This made it the volume leader in workstation sales, overtaking Sun for the first time in 1997.
Pattenden believes Sun?s strategy is flawed. ?It is not sensible for companies to turn their face against NT. As some of their customers will use NT, it is an implied insult from Sun.?
IDC believes that 1998 will see Unix vendors attempting to differentiate their servers from NT rivals on the basis of their greater scalability, security and clustering features.
It pointed out that Unix still has some advantages - for instance, its clustering functionality is more developed than NT's.
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