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June 1, 1994

IBM TO OFFER SOLARIS, MAYBE NT, MORE, ON SOME RS/6000s

By CBR Staff Writer

IBM Corp marked the launch of its new RS/6000s with a significant change in operating system strategy last week, reports this week’s edition of our sister paper Unigram.X. Over time, IBM plans to do the once-unthinkable and provide some models in its formerly AIX Unix-only line pre-loaded with either SunSoft Inc’s Solaris, Microsoft Corp’s Windows NT, OS/2 or Taligent, indeed any of the operating systems that are to feature on its Power Personal systems. It’s reasonable to assume, argues Jeff Mason, assistant general manager, worldwide marketing at IBM’s RS/6000 Division, that once customers can buy client systems – Power Personals – running Solaris, NT and the like, then they are going to want the same operating systems on servers – RS/6000s. In any case, IBM says, once the operating systems are converted for the PowerPC 601 Power Personals, it will be relatively easy to get them up on the PowerPC-based RS/6000s. Presumably, the slide over to Power, on which PowerPC is based, would be relatively simple, although conventional RS/6000s are Micro Channel-based, while the PowerPC uses the Peripheral Component Interconnect bus. Choosing their words carefully, IBMers made it clear that Donna Van Fleet’s AIX remains the strategic operating system choice: it runs across the PowerPC and Power models. Solaris will be a SunSoft offering, Mason says, which IBM won’t include in its price list, although it will pre-load it. IBM expects that the NT implementation will be a Motorola Inc and Microsoft effort, though knowledge of what is afoot appears sharply restricted and even higher-ups inside Motorola say they don’t know what is going on. IBM suggests the move will be limited at least initially to the RS/6000 division’s lower-end PowerPC-based servers, which now fall under the partial hegemony of IBM’s Power Personal Systems Division on the client side of the company. No timeframes were given and it remains unclear whether the operating systems will eventually move up on to IBM’s larger RS/6000s, which are currently based on the proprietary Power architecture from which the PowerPC chips are derived. The RS/6000 division’s grudging acceptance of Solaris on its machines will surprise close observers. Officials at its sister unit, Power Personal Systems, which aims to build IBM a new fortune on the PowerPC, have steadfastly assumed that the division would never put Solaris, or NT for that matter, on its machines.

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