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Unix holdout signs on to Windows

Synopsys, which sells high-end chip design software for Unix workstations, moved its products to Windows.

One of the last bastions of rarefied Unix-only computing has fallen, as Synopsys, a high-end vendor of semiconductor design software for Unix workstations, announced that it will put its products on the Windows-Intel platform.

The conversion of Synopsys is significant, say observers, because it will fill in one of the last major gaps in the high-end software picture for Intel/Windows NT workstations. Synopsys specializes in electronic design automation (EDA) software, complex software that is used for designing semiconductor devices, among other esoteric applications.

EDA software is well ensconced in the Unix world, which has long been home to many of the most sophisticated computer applications. But even the most rarefied software is now moving to the Windows-Intel environment as Intel delivers increasingly powerful processors and prepares for a 1999 release of its first 64-bit processor, called Merced.

One company that could be affected is Sun, because the firm holds the largest market share among Synopsys users.

"This is an application that has required big, expensive workstations," said Steve Kleynhans, vice president at The Meta Group.

While other high-end chip design vendors, notably Cadence and Mentor, have already agreed to port their wares to the Windows operating system, Synopsys' products occupy a strong position in the upper technological tier of the market. The company's Synthesis product, for instance, commands approximately 85 percent of the market for sophisticated chip design, according to some estimates.

"This is very important in that they are one of the three main EDA companies. It is not possible to have a solution without the three main tools vendors," said Daya Nadamuni, industry analyst at Dataquest. "Synopsys is the last major EDA vendor to move to NT."

Synopsys will port the majority of its design tools to Windows by the end of the year, the company said. Synopsys also said it will support the 64-bit Merced chip.

As part of the effort, Synopsys will work to ensure that its Unix and NT versions work together. "A designer will be able to use a Unix workstation one session and a Windows NT workstation the next. The designer won't know the difference," said Aart de Geus, president of Synopsys, in a prepared statement.

Diane Wortsmann, a director in the workstation product group at Intel, claimed that the ability of Synopsys and other EDA vendors to bring their tools to the Windows NT platform comes far earlier than many Unix supporters believed would be possible.

The shift will also allow Synopsys to latch onto the growing segment of the workstation market. Sales of workstations based around NT are growing rapidly, according to most sales statistics, while Unix sales remain flat.

In a related announcement, Digital said it would collaborate with Synopsis on testing the interoperability of Synopsys' tools as well as support the NT-based products when they arrive. Testing will begin during the first half of 1998, with product delivery planned for by the end of the year.