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PowerPC sales cut

IBM and Motorola stop the sale of Windows NT-based computers equipped with their own PowerPC chips.

IBM (IBM) and Motorola (MOT) will halt sales of Windows NT-based computers equipped with the PowerPC microprocessor.

IBM will wind down sales and support for Windows NT on its RS/6000 machines while Motorola will do the same on its PowerStack II line of workstations and servers.

A company representative said IBM made the decision because its PowerPC-based RS/6000 machines running Microsoft's Windows NT operating system are not selling as well as models that ship with IBM's AIX Unix operating system. IBM will continue to sell PowerPC-based RS/6000s workstations running its AIX, according to the company.

"We are not going to get rid of the PowerPC," IBM spokeswoman Pam Olson said. She said the decision will not significantly affect the chip's usage because units built with the Windows NT system represent a fraction of the company's "billion-dollar" RS/6000 workstation business.

A Motorola spokesperson said the company "will continue to help current customers, but we won't go out looking for new customers." The spokesperson added that they will continue to support the PowerStack line until the release of Windows NT 5.0. After that, only limited support will be available, the spokesperson added.

Tom Copeland, an analyst at International Data Corporation, said he was not surprised by the move.

He said it had become increasingly clear that the PowerPC chip will not offer a serious challenge to Intel's Pentium and Pentium Pro processors in the market segments IBM and Motorola were targeting with Windows NT. Yet Copeland added that the PowerPC chip and operating system initiative continue to hold a great deal of opportunity in the Macintosh and Unix markets.

The microprocessor was designed by IBM, Apple Computer, and Motorola in an effort to challenge Intel's domination of the PC processor market.

However, the PowerPC initiative has suffered recently, as both Apple and IBM wavered in their commitment to the chip. Big Blue, for instance, has already axed plans to develop a version of OS/2 for the PowerPC chip.

And while Apple continues to sell PowerPC-based Macintosh systems, the company is behind schedule to finish a version of the Mac operating system that would run on PowerPC systems based on the PowerPC Platform, formerly referred to as the Common Hardware Reference Platform (CHRP).

The PowerPC Platform was conceived as an open standard for a system design that would run multiple operating systems including the Windows NT and the Mac OS.

The move may most hurt Motorola, IDC's Copeland said. "It is disappointing for Motorola that they will not be able to go head-to-head with Intel."

Olson said IBM is not abandoning its commitment to the three companies' larger PowerPC Platform specification initiative. "We are still going to aggressively pursue the PowerPC...because there are many more benefits [to the architecture] than just NT and Mac OS compatibility," Olson said.

Motorola will redirect its efforts in lieu of active support for its PowerPC systems running Windows NT. "We've made a decision to refocus our product development activity on some existing markets and new markets where can achieve leadership," the Motorola spokesperson said.

Systems based on the PowerPC Platform specification "remains a logical development platform for an open Mac OS environment. Enterprise and business buyers of macs have been looking for macs made out of industry standard parts, peripherals," the spokesperson added.