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NT workstations grab marketshare

Windows NT-based personal workstations make significant inroads into the Unix workstation market in 1996. The trend should continue according to an industry report.

Vendors of Windows NT-based "personal workstations" such as Compaq (CPQ), Hewlett-Packard (HWP) and Intergraph(INGR) made significant inroads into the traditional Unix-based workstation market in 1996, a trend that should continue in 1997 according to a recent report released by IDC Research.

The most remarkable trend is that personal workstation shipments in 1996 grew 38 percent worldwide to 831,000 units, exceeding traditional workstation shipments--which totaled 712,000--for the first time, according to the report. Workstations are powerful computers used in fields such as engineering, science, and multimedia-content creation. A new category of workstations, dubbed personal workstations, from companies such as Compaq and Hewlett-Packard are generally less expensive than traditional Unix workstations. Personal workstations generally use Intel Pentium Pro processors and run Windows NT, while traditional workstations run Unix and use RISC processors such Sun's Sparc chip.

"Windows NT is making inroads into selected UNIX markets, such as financial services, animation and CAD," said Dr. Thomas G. Copeland, Workstations and High-Performance Systems research director for the report. "However, traditional UNIX vendors are still holding their own. Users are not about to scrap their productive UNIX infrastructures overnight."

IDC says the traditional workstation vendors will continue to enjoy solid marketshare numbers in the mid-range technical application markets, but that the growth of those markets will be "flat." In this market segment, the wide number of applications available for Unix will benefit Sun and SGI in particular as they hold to their Unix-only strategy.

IDC's numbers state that for 1996 Sun Microsystems (SU NW) still has a firm grip on the top spot among the Unix vendors, shipping approximately 41 percent of all traditional workstations. HP lost some ground, but still maintains a 19-percent market share, with Silicon Graphics (SGI ) placing third with 10.6-percent market share.

According to IDC, Sun shipped more units than HP, SGI and IBM combined, but is increasingly being challenged in its traditional strongholds such as the financial services markets by Windows NT-based workstations. Another Unix-only vendor, SGI, suffered because of delayed shipments and manufacturing problems, yet still managed to grow their revenue by 6 percent. IDC warns, however, that "SGI's rapid growth years in the workstation business are over."

Still, even vendors of mid-range systems will get increased competition next year from Compaq, which is looking to compete head-on in the market by leveraging cutting-edge parallel processing graphics technology from Integrated Computing Engines, or ICE. The workstations will be aimed at professionals in the film postproduction, animation, and CAD markets.