Microsoft is to abandon further development work on Windows NT for the PowerPC Risc architecture.
The move kills off any chance that a version of Windows NT for PowerPC will be available on the Common Hardware Reference Platform (CHRP) and is a serious blow to the architecture. It leaves the Macintosh as the only mainstream desktop operating left on the PowerPC, and IBM's AIX as the only server OS.
Microsoft's decision follows last month's announcements by Bull, IBM and Motorola to drop support for future versions of NT on the PowerPC.
Mark Hassall, BackOffice product marketing manager at Microsoft, confirmed to PC Week: "We are in the process of phasing out all PowerPC development for Windows NT, affecting both NT Workstation and NT Server. This includes all BackOffice applications and products that run on the PowerPC platform such as Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office."
Hassall reassured users that Microsoft would continue supporting NT 4.0 on the PowerPC. As for Microsoft's intentions for NT on Risc architectures, Hassall said the future was with Digital's Alpha. "We are continuing NT development for the Digital Alpha platform, including support in NT 5.0 for 64-bit addressing," added Hassall (see last week's PC Week).
Microsoft said its decision was related to a lack of demand for the product, and not technical problems. "We will continue to work with Motorola on non-PC devices," said Hassall.
He noted that Motorola was porting the lightweight Windows CE operating system to the PowerPC. "This is further evidence that the decision (to drop development of NT on PowerPC) is not a technology issue."
Martin Hingley, a research director at IDC, said that unlike Unix vendors, Microsoft has control of its NT source code, making it difficult for hardware manufacturers to optimise the operating system for their platforms. As a result, "any performance advantages are lost", said Hingley.
Explaining why Bull dropped NT support on PowerPC, Diddier Breton, VP of open systems at Bull, said: "On the PowerPC platform we have to invest in ISVs, channel, middleware and porting. This all comes free on Intel.
We prefer to put money in products which customers ask for and they are not asking for NT on PowerPC."
- See Leader page 20
Power PC: rocky 12 months
Jan 1996 - Development of OS/2 for PowerPC frozen
Dec 1996 - PowerPC Consortium abandons support for future versions of PowerPC on Windows NT
Jan 1997 - Apple acquires NeXT, putting a question-mark over the company's future commitment to PowerPC
Feb 1997 - Microsoft phases out future development of NT on PowerPC.
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