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HP passes Sun in workstations

HP is No.1 in workstations--if a somewhat loose definition of the entire market is considered.

When both Unix and NT workstations are counted together, Hewlett Packard surpassed Sun Microsystems to become the No.1 workstation vendor in 1997, according to an upcoming report from International Data Corporation (IDC).

The study sheds additional light on a trend that has been growing all year, namely that the sales of workstations based on the Windows NT operating system are growing rapidly while sales of Unix desktops are declining. This year, some predict NT units could outsell Unix counterparts by three to one.

Sun held on to the No.1 position in Unix workstations by a wide margin, under the IDC report conducted by Tom Copeland. In 1997, Sun shipped 285,815 Unix workstations, nearly three times as many as HP, which shipped 108,165 for the year.

HP, however, ranked first in the NT workstation category, under a broad definition of NT workstations. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor shipped 222,394 units during calendar year 1997. Sun shipped zero.

Combining the two categories, HP shipped 330,559 workstations, giving it the highest ranking overall, surpassing Sun which shipped 285,815 machines.

In fact, a combined Compaq-Digital Equipment accounted for 289,190 Unix and NT workstations in 1997, which would be second overall, though this is purely hypothetical since Compaq?s purchase of Digital Equipment is not finalized yet.

Even when the categories are viewed separately, however, the Unix picture is relatively bleak. In 1996, Sun sold 295,518 workstations. While it stayed the market leader, it shipped approximately 10,000 fewer workstations in 1997 for a decline of 3.3 percent.

HP did even worse in the Unix category. In 1996, it sold 134,995 workstations, a figure which declined 19.8 percent to 108,165.

By contrast, HP saw its NT workstation sales go from 96,000 in 1996 to 222,394, while Compaq's sales went from 92,000 to 199,700.

"The PC workstation market will grow more than 50 percent this year and the Unix workstation market will stay flat or go negative," for both the industry as a whole and HP, said Dave DuPont, worldwide product marketing manager for HP's Kayak workstations, which is the company's PC workstation line.

"The big opportunity is the upsizer market, the people who are graduating from desktops, but we are also getting the Unix downsizers," he said.

These growth rates will mean that, roughly, PC workstations will likely outsell Unix workstations by three to one in 1998, he said.

While NT is growing in units, Unix advocates point out that NT workstations are not typically as powerful as even low-end Unix models.

HP's definition is, in fact, rather broad. A PC workstation must use Windows NT, contain at least 32MB of memory, a hard drive of 4GB or more, use an advanced graphics subsystem, and employ a relatively advanced Intel microprocessor, According to DuPont.

Because of price cuts in memory and Intel processors, nearly all of these characteristics can be found on machines classified as desktop computers, some of which are selling for less than $3,000.

Still, DuPont points out that some of these characteristics are not far from describing the new low-cost Darwin workstations Sun released earlier this month.