The entrance of Dell Computer Corp. into the Windows NT workstation market this summer will offer users yet another alternative to traditional Unix-based workstations and will further close the gap between Unix and NT systems.
Dell's workstations will be targeted against NT-based workstation competitors such as Compaq Computer Corp. and toward users who have traditionally bought Unix workstations from Sun Microsystems Computer Co. and Silicon Graphics Inc.
"One is the workstation users who are buying from SGI but are moving down to NT," said Linda Hargrove, vice president of workstations for Dell. "What they are gaining is a product that is costing, in some cases, a third of what their equivalent performing Unix workstation would cost, and they are no longer having to have a Unix workstation and a PC that runs NT."
Dell isn't alone. Workstation vendors on the NT platforms, such as Compaq and Intergraph Computer Systems, are comparing themselves more often to traditional workstation vendors such as Sun. When Compaq released Professional Workstation 6000, a Pentium II system, and Professional Workstation 8000, a four-way Pentium Pro system, it compared itself to Sun workstations, releasing favorable benchmarks.
The gap between NT and Unix workstation shipments closed in 1996, with roughly the same number of each being shipped, according to preliminary numbers released by International Data Corp. (see chart). In 1997, the number of NT-based workstations shipped is expected to be roughly twice the number of Unix workstations shipped.
Unix workstations users are starting to look more closely at the choice.
"The issue is one of market need," said Dave Rogers, president of K2 Technologies Inc., of Salt Lake City, a software developer that uses Sun workstations. "Our end of the market has been server systems that are handling high volumes of data. That piece of the business is completely handled with Unix boxes. Still, we eventually will have to look at it."
What remains to be seen is when NT workstations will be able to deliver the kind of performance provided by traditional Unix-based technical workstations.
"The traditional workstation market will be leveling out," said Keren Seymour, an analyst with IDC, in Mountain View, Calif. "People will be able to port applications to NT. Once those features come around, you will see a lot more of the technical workstation users move over."
Dell, of Round Rock, Texas, is at (800) 388-8542 or www.dell.com.
Windows NT spreading fast
Workstations shipped in 1995