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NT-based workstations on the rise

The Windows NT-based workstation market is trouncing that of more traditional Unix-based machines, according to a report.

Growth in the market for Windows NT-based workstations trounced that of more traditional Unix-based machines from 1997 to 1998, but manufacturers with Unix machines are still making plenty of money.

The low cost that attracts users to the NT systems means slimmer profits for the companies that sell them. While workstation shipments increased 22 percent from 1997 to 1998, revenues dropped 3 percent, according to an International Data Corporation study released today.

Workstations are high-powered computers used for tasks such as financial modeling, software development, scientific and technical computations, computer-aided design, and three-dimensional graphics.

"With more branded NT workstations shipping than Unix workstations in 1998, NT is driving the growth for the workstation market," said IDC workstation analyst Tom Copeland in a statement.

And dropping prices have made the market more appealing, IDC said. "The lower cost of high-performance Intel-based Windows NT systems brought workstation capabilities to a much broader set of users than has historically been the case with Unix workstations," Copeland said.

Hewlett-Packard and Dell Computer are in a "virtual tie" for first place of the Windows NT workstation market, with 22.8 and 22.3 percent of the market share, respectively.

However, HP, which also sells Unix workstations, shipped more machines and earned more revenue than Dell.

While Sun Microsystems, which sells only Unix-based workstations, took 23 percent of the $14.7 billion global workstation market, HP was in a close second place with 22 percent, IDC said.

An estimated 2.3 million workstations were sold in 1998, about 600,000 of them Unix machines, IDC reported. While those sales brought in $7.9 billion--more than half of the total workstation revenue--Unix systems are under heavy competitive pressure from the Windows NT machines, IDC said.

Sun, HP, and IBM are the strongest players in the Unix workstation market, IDC said.

Faced with the NT onslaught, though, Sun was the only company whose Unix workstation shipments increased in 1998, IDC said. In 1999, IDC predicts even big companies with lots of Unix workstations already on site will begin to adopt NT machines, although "the transfer will be an arduous process that will take several years to complete," IDC said.

Silicon Graphics once sold only Unix workstations but crossed the fence this year, adding Intel/NT machines to its product line as part of a larger effort to help it recover some of its past glory.