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Unisys, Microsoft to launch anti-Unix ads

The two plan to launch a marketing campaign that seeks to undermine Unix, the operating system at the heart of powerful server lines from rivals Sun, IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

Unisys and Microsoft plan to launch a marketing campaign Friday that seeks to undermine Unix, the operating system at the heart of powerful server lines from rivals Sun Microsystems, IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

Unisys is spending $25 million on the campaign, spokeswoman Pasha Ray said. Microsoft is adding funding of its own but declined to say how much.

The 18-month project will include advertisements, technical sales efforts and other marketing work plugging Unisys' high-end server and Microsoft's top-end version of Windows--two products that so far have made only their first steps into the data centers where high-end servers often reside.

The campaign, called "We have the way out," describes Unix as an expensive trap. "No wonder Unix makes you feel boxed in. It ties you to an inflexible system. It requires you to pay for expensive experts. It makes you struggle daily with a server environment that's more complex than ever," one ad reads.

The same ad depicts a scene in which a computer user has painted himself into a corner with purple paint. Sun's servers are manufactured in a shade of purple similar to that in the ad.

Sun responded to the campaign in a statement. "Sun still does not see Microsoft as a real threat in the datacenter market where reliability, availability, serviceability and security are key," the company said. "As for Unix being 'inflexible,' 'expensive,' and 'complex,' we feel those are terms much better suited to the closed and proprietary world of Windows."

Two technologies are at the center of the campaign. The Unisys ES7000 server can accommodate as many as 32 Intel processors and can be divided into independent "partitions," each with its own operating system. The Datacenter version of Windows 2000 can run on machines with as many as 32 processors. These top-end configurations are rare, Unisys has said, with eight-, 12-, or 16-processor partitions more common.

Unisys faces competition not only from Unix servers, which have accommodated dozens of processors for years, but also from IBM's new Summit servers, which top out at 16 processors but cost considerably less than the ES7000.

Another obstacle for Unisys: Only a few hundred ES7000 servers have been sold so far, and sales partnerships with Dell, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard have all fallen apart.