The lords of the Wintel empire contend that in the past 12 months they have fully muscled their way into the Unix-dominated technical workstation market.
Continuing their frontal assault on this market, Intel and Microsoft recently announced several industry initiatives geared at expanding their workstation presence.
Together the two companies will beef up NT's ability to run complex graphics applications with support for a new version of the Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) interface. This new interface between NT and the underlying Intel hardware, called AGP Pro, will enable Wintel workstations to improve graphics delivery fourfold, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft and Intel will work on bettering migration and interoperability between NT and Unix desktop boxes and boosting the number of native NT applications in areas such as mechanical CAD and financial trading and analysis.
NationsBanc-CRT, a Chicago-based trading arm of NationsBanc Montgomery Securities, in New York, has standardized on NT for about 600 desktop machines. However, 150 traders still have Unix boxes sitting alongside their NT boxes in order to run high-end financial and stock tracking applications.
Consolidation in favor of NT is a direction Rick Shope, manager of PC technology at NationsBanc-CRT, would definitely like to go. "But I have to be able to assure those guys they won't lose access to necessary applications if they give up their Unix machines,'' he says, adding that the workstation application market for Unix currently far surpasses that for NT.
At the Workstation Leadership Forum held here earlier this month, Intel CEO Craig Barrett and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates redoubled efforts to convince independent software vendors (ISV) to invest in NT.
The two announced the new Migration Assistance Program, which will help ISVs develop applications for 32-bit Intel systems running NT. The program also will help ISVs work toward the upcoming release of Intel's Merced processor. Merced is to be the first in Intel's 64-bit line and is expected to be available next year.
ISVs will get relevant product updates, discounted developer workstations, on-site consulting services and briefings on Intel's overall 64-bit architecture, and more specifically, the Merced chip.
Gates and Barrett pointed to several recent studies to convince the 300-odd ISVs present at the forum that NT would be worth their while. The studies show that low-cost Pentium-based machines preloaded with NT are gaining ground on the Unix-RISC combination, which can be three times as expensive.
For example, International Data Corp. (IDC) said sales of workstations equipped with NT increased more than 70% last year. In contrast, Unix workstation sales dropped by 7%. IDC said Wintel workstations for the first time outsold their Unix-based counterparts, at 1.3 million vs. 660,000 units.