HP hedges its bets with Windows NT

Munich , 16 August 1997 In a one-day seminar Hewlett-Packard presented its strategy on Unix and Windows NT as well its roadmap to the HP-Intel chip and the company's present product line. During the same meeting, independent software vendors and partners demonstrated technical solutions and users of the software gave talks on their applications and their benefits.

Hewlett-Packard presented its strategy on its consolidation of processor architectures and operating systems. Market analysts expect a reduction to two or three architectures, Intel, PowerPC and one other. At present HP is promoting its PA-RISC architecture, the PA 8200, but there will be others such as the 8500 (120 000 transistors) and perhaps the 8700. Surely HP will not stop the production when the first fruit of its cooperation with Intel is delivered, the so called IA-64 series or the Merced - IA-32 is Intel's x86 product line? With the new processor, expected around the year 2000, many more (>2) instructions per clock are possible.

Several other vendors have decided to use this processor too, including Microsoft, Compaq, NEC and Siemens-Nixdorf/Pyramid.

On the operating system side, HP will have both Windows NT and Unix in their portfolio, but with an integration of both systems. In the first step HP-UX (64-bit system) and SCO Unix (32 bit, Intel x86 systems) will be melted down. They are expected to define a new Unix standard, 3DA, which will be supported by vendors that have a 60% market share in UNIX, PA-RISC, HP/Intel, MIPS and Unix open. It was said that Hitachi and NEC plan to use HP's Unix. All of this results in code compatibility between different processor platforms from PC to RISC. Also, in the HP/Microsoft alliance an interoperability between the desktop and the computer centrewill be realised.

HP is an authorised support centre for Microsoft and offers Windows NT and Unix integration services. HP's strategy for the future is the IA-64 processor architecture running HP-UX/3DA as well as NT on the processor.

Especially in the overlapping field of powerfull microprocessors - personal workstation - and the low end RISC workstation, HP can deliver expertise and services. In theory, this strategy will give the right system for the user, Unix or NT but with co-existence, Unix management from NT and vice versa, and transparent Unix/NT integration on hardware and application level, but will HP spread itself too thin by hedging its bets? Behind the nice guy approach it's a real challenge for HP, needed extensive cooperation with market leaders in processors and operating systems.

On the hardware side, Convex is now completely integrated into HP: the Exemplar series fits smoothly into the technical server family.

Unix or NT?

HP does not choose between Unix or NT. It just takes both of them. According to HP, Unix addresses several weak points of NT while NT is cheaper and easier to use because it is one product and does not have as many variations as Unix.

Here's how HP summarised the differences:

Unix for high-end performance is reliable, stable and can be used for mission critical applications

NT, good user interface, defacto standard, good price/performace ratio, access to office applications etc.

The differences between DOS, Windows 3.x and NT and UNIX on the other hand will develop towards NT, an interface UNIX/NT and Unix . Thus the user can select the appropriate system and can switch between both. Thus he can decide to stay with Unix or NT only, or to integrate both.

HP presented some examples, File Sharing with an NFS client on Windows NT and the Windows Application Server - NTrigue. NTrigue is sold and supported by HP with real NT servers plus network layers and delivers NT environment to any desktop (Unix, 386). This avoids having both PC and workstation on one desk.

Uwe Harms