Windows NT and 95 won't merge, say analysts

Windows NT may be the fastest-growing platform in the next five years, according to analysts from Gartner Group.

Windows NT may be the fastest-growing platform in the next five years, according to analysts from Gartner Group, but it will probably not merge with Windows 95 by 2001 and the two operating systems will continue to target separate markets.

"We will probably never see Windows NT and Windows 95 merge fully, but the two operating systems will definitely share a common kernel in five years' time," said Tony Percy, an analyst at Gartner Group, at a conference in Menlo Park this week. The reason the two operating systems will remain separate products is that Microsoft will continue to push Windows 95 as a home OS while positioning NT as a business OS, Percy says. Windows 95 will continue to gain market share at a moderate pace and will taper off by the year 2000, while NT will grow at a "phenomenal pace through the early part of the next century", he says.

NT's success as a server platform will skyrocket by the end of the decade, Percy says. By the year 2001, NT revenue share for server operating system shipments will surpass Unix -- the most popular server platform today, he says.

"Unix has no hope of stemming NT's broad market appeal," according to a Gartner Group report on computing infrastructure. In the next five years, Intel processor-based Windows machines will take the lead over Unix servers with RISC chips, according to the study.

In reaction to this trend, Unix vendors will rush to port software and middleware to NT, while RISC suppliers will be forced to re-architect systems to defend against Intel servers running NT, Percy says. RISC processor-based systems will fail to penetrate the mainstream desktop market and will lose momentum in the technical workstation market, according to the study.

On the desktop side, NT Workstation will continue to increase in market share, but Windows 95 will clearly dominate, Percy says. The Gartner Group predicts that the 32-bit Windows platform will eclipse all other desktop operating systems in the number of installed units by 2001.

Macintosh systems running the MacOS and IBM's OS/2 will be "playing, at best, to niche markets", according to the study. "The Mac will continue to flounder," Percy says.

However, while NT's rise to "take over the world" is "obvious from a technological standpoint", the question remains if Microsoft will have the ability to deal with this growth on a management, sales and support level, Percy says. The company may have to build an expensive sales and support division, which it has avoided in the past, Percy says.

One thing is certain: once NT becomes the server operating system of choice, Microsoft will raise the price of the software, Percy says. "Once Microsoft gets market share, it will increase prices. This is what it has characteristically done in the past," Percy says.

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