Unix vendors admit that Microsoft NT is currently defeating them but at last week's Uniforum conference, they clubbed together to fight for the operating system market with a new Unix 98 standard, and a unified PR and marketing campaign.
Allen Brown, vice president and chief operating officer at The Open Group - the main standards body overseeing Unix specifications - blamed Vars and system integrators for helping NT attack Unix? market. He led Digital Equipment, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, SCO, Siemens Nixdorf/Pyramid and Sunsoft in a coordinated bid to fight back.
At a joint press conference at Uniforum in San Francisco on Thursday, Brown admitted that the industry is only talking about instances where Unix is losing out to NT. He said: "That perception can become reality. Unix has six times the sales of NT but we?re seeing Vars supplying NT first. They have told us suppliers only let them offer Windows 95 or NT."
In turn, he said, customers only hear about how NT is defeating Unix and that is why they order NT from Vars. "We need to change the market perception of Unix and ensure buyers have a choice."
Brown said The Open Group will oversee a single Unix 98 specification and will help vendors collaborate on "urgent promotional activities". The aim is to brand Unix collectively, in the same way that dairy and cattle associations collaborate to market milk and beef.
Although all the vendors present agreed Unix is still the dominant OS in many fields and the only secure, scalable option for many customer uses, they could not back up their fighting talk with details of a tangible marketing campaign. No hard facts on funding or target sectors were available.
All the vendors present agreed to work together on the Unix 98 standard and referred to each other as "the Unix faithful". They claimed the Internet is based on Unix-powered servers and denied Unix? success in the Net was just a case of being in the right market at the right time.
Yet, while Digital?s Unix marketing manager Mark Silverberg was promoting Unix, Digital reaffirmed its commitment to NT. Digital announced its increasingly close alliance with Microsoft will have won contracts covering one million seats by mid-1997 and NT Beta 5.0 will be delivered first on Digital's Alpha architecture by the end of 1997.
Brown hopes The Open Group can ratify its standards with the NC Reference Profile, which is coordinating specifications for network computers, within 10 weeks, to exploit the only future market for Unix the hosts mentioned all day - as the server OS for NC installations.
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