An NT jamboree last week, intended to promote the use of the operating system in the enterprise, instead revealed the limits of its appeal.
The launch of The NT Enterprise Forum conference was attended by 50 corporate users - none of whom had wall-to-wall NT solutions. Even the sponsors of the forum - ICL, IBM, NCR and Unisys - seemed unconvinced that NT is ready for enterprise computing.
No vendor is trying to sell customers NT for mission critical systems like on-line banking or airline reservation systems, admitted Paul Bevan, director of sales at Unisys.
"If today I went to an airline reservation and it was using NT, I wouldn't get on the plane - it's just not ready for that," he joked. However, he added, Unisys' goal is to bring forward Gartner's 2001 deadline for the suitability of NT for the enterprise, he said.
Peter Slavid, business strategy manager at ICL, commented that the suitability of NT varies between industries. NT could be appropriate where the enterprise is split up into small chunks, as in the retail industry. Banks may choose to run branches on NT, but not the huge head office, he said.
In a surprising echo of the fate of enterprise operating system Unix, Martin Butler, chairman of the Butler Group, drew a distinction between "vanilla NT", the base Microsoft product, which he said would probably not be suitable for the enterprise until 2001 (likely to be NT 6.0 rather than NT 5.0), and NT as modified by Unisys, ICL and other companies, which he claimed is enterprise-class now.
IBM stood out from the other three vendors in refusing to accept that there is no alternative to NT in the enterprise. Unix and mainframe platforms both have a serious part to play in the enterprise, argued Adam Jollans, marketing manager of IBM software for Windows NT.
It was the revenues involved in the NT business that brought IBM to the table. Jollans estimates that NT revenues will hit $35 billion (#21.5 billion) by the year 2000, 10% of which would go to Microsoft with the other 90% to the company providing the accompanying hardware, software and services.
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