Hewlett-Packard has formed its closest alliance ever with Microsoft, in a partnership that centres on beefed-up support for Windows NT and lowered total cost of ownership (TCO).
In an announcement made this week, the companies have agreed to link their salesforces, consulting groups and development teams in an attempt to lower TCO across the enterprise, push NT further into the enterprise market and provide greater interoperability across heterogeneous environments.
The announcement is a blow to Digital Equipment, which until now has been the main server manufacturer aligned with Microsoft in its push to penetrate the enterprise with NT.
?Microsoft is always riding the most powerful wave,? said Rana Mainee, director of consulting at research company IDC. "Digital had a clear upper hand in the mid-1990s with Alpha. NT had to prove itself at the high end and Alpha was key for that. The most powerful wave in the late nineties will come from the Intel based suppliers like Compaq, HP and IBM.?
The NT bandwaggon is rolling - IBM has already stated its intention of putting Intel/NT machines alongside its RS/6000 range and Mainee believes these will entirely replace the RS/6000 PowerPC/Unix line.
?NT has arrived in the host market,? he said. ?It has a solid foundation in almost every single platform. It has almost full penetration into Digital, 30 per cent penetration into HP - which will grow to about 70 per cent in the next two years - and about 10 per cent penetration into IBM, which looks set to become about 20 per cent over the next two years. Digital is technically and theoretically better off in the marketplace for the next two years. But it doesn?t have the market momentum that HP has.?
Digital officials disagreed that the announcement would lead to a weakening of its own relationship with Microsoft, which some observers believe has been critical to Digital's own survival in the front line of suppliers.
?HP is at long last jumping off the fence and deciding to back NT,? said Ian McKenzie, marketing manager for NT at Digital UK. ?Microsoft was always going to look for another significant partner at some stage to help it implement enterprise-wide solutions. This announcement is similar to the one we made with Microsoft over 15 months ago but the core development we have put in since then, in the development of NT and Backoffice solutions on Alpha, gives us a clear lead.?
As part of the agreement, Microsoft restated its intention to offer NT support for the jointly developed HP-Intel Merced 64-bit processor, when this becomes available in late 1998. But for the next couple of years HP will continue to offer NT on its Intel-based boxes and Unix on its high end PA-Risc servers.
Also as part of the announcement, in a bid to lower the cost of enterprise computing, HP outlined its plan for a new series of low cost NetPCs. The HP Net Vectra series is expected to be available this summer, with entry level selling prices expected to be about $1,000. It will conform to the NetPC specification released by Microsoft and Intel at Cebit last week.
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