Compaq is expected to announce next week that it will join the Monterey consortium of Unix vendors.
The announcement will be made in New York on Tuesday. Sources close to the parties confirmed that Compaq had been in talks with Monterey representatives since last month.
All three members - SCO, IBM and Sequent - remained tight lipped about the deal. But late last week their marketing and communications departments were mobilising top executives ready for the announcement of a new partner after the close of the stock markets on Tuesday in the US and early on Wednesday in Europe.
Compaq is SCO's largest reseller by far - the relationship was worth an estimated 800 million to Compaq in 1998 - but so far the company has made no public statement on Monterey.
Compaq has been cagey about Monterey because it does not want to suggest any lack of commitment to Tru64, the rival Alpha based Unix operating system it inherited when it bought Digital.
Monterey is an alliance formed last year to create a single Unix for Intel's 64bit Merced platform using elements of IBM's AIX, SCO's Unixware and Sequent's Dynix/PTX operating systems.
Industry analysts at Gartner Group pointed out that as long as Compaq continues to sell Unixware, it will have no option but to co-operate with Monterey.
"Compaq has no choice but to be part of Monterey. In all honesty, we have been expecting this. We don't need an announcement to know that Tru64 will probably only be vested on the Alpha platform, not Intel," said Andy Butler, research director at Gartner.
Both Intel and IBM are putting undisclosed amounts, running into millions of pounds, in a fund to ensure that Monterey gets support from the ISV community. Several other vendors have pledged their support, including ICL and Unisys.
Gartner is predicting considerable consolidation within the Unix market over the next few years around a handful of mainstream operating systems. Three camps have grown up around Sun Solaris, HP-UX and AIX/Unixware. The only Unix vendors remaining publicly ambivalent about which camp to join are Silicon Graphics, Data General and Compaq.
For more stories, see 6 April issue of PC Week UK
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