Outsourcing firm EDS has joined forces with Microsoft to sell the latter's software.
Under the partnership, made public last week, EDS will get early access to Microsoft products while they are in development.
In return, EDS will train 7,000 engineers to be Microsoft-certified technicians and offer Microsoft software to its corporate and government clients.
The deal will widen the range of services the two already offer clients.
Steve Ballmer, president of Microsoft, said: "We (and EDS) share a 12-year history, and now we are formalising the relationship."
Reaction among analysts was quiet surprise about the joint marketing but not the push to make Windows NT the platform of choice. "Really, nothing changes and EDS will still work with plenty of other companies," said Christian Munz, senior research analyst at IDC. "It will help to place NT firmly on the map and push the marketing for both companies. Windows 2000, when it appears, will need this kind of boost."
EDS claimed the tie-up with Microsoft would not jeopardise relations with rival software and operating system vendors.
"We still have a very good relationship with EDS," said Hugh Jenkins, Hewlett-Packard's server manager, "and hope to continue to supply hardware to them. The more skills in the NT sector, the better. And we see this alliance as indicative of the scope in this area, rather than a closing of ranks."
Other companies were not so positive about the partnership. "Now it is in the Microsoft domain, EDS has limited itself to Microsoft capabilities," David Allinson, product marketing manager at Sun, told PC Week.
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