Though World War 2 ended in May 1945, Nazi Germany really lost at Stalingrad three years before, when the Red Army entrapped, killed or captured 250,000 of its soldiers and allies in that ruined city. It is becoming increasingly clear that Wednesday’s Hewlett-Packard Co and Microsoft Corp betrothal (CI No 3,123) is to be interpreted more as psychological warfare than as a means to deliver a specific set of deliverables. In other words, it’s the biggest kid on the (midrange server) block ganging up with the biggest kid on the (desktop) block as a powerful means of reinforcing the message that Windows NT truly, truly has arrived, lest any of you Unix weenies still be in doubt. During the satellite telecast Bill Gates, who as of Thursday’s stock ebb and flow was personally worth $27.1bn, or 71% of his partner Hewlett’s 1996 $38.4bn revenues, came out with the curious claim that We developed Windows NT completely from scratch to include the best of both Unix and Windows, which is a statement the Digital VAX/VMS experts who built Windows NT may find worthy of a knowing smirk. But what Gates really meant was that NT’s endorsement by previous Unix champion Hewlett-Packard marks a sea-change in the server market.
By Gary Flood
NT is thus being presented not as another operating system with this or that feature better or worse than, say, OS/2 or a specific Unix like HP-UX, but as a business ‘solution’ for the functional problems of the ‘enterprise’ In other words, when we once spoke of ‘open systems’ and meant easier cross-platform support rather than specific adherence to what was written in Unix textbooks, we now speak of ‘reducing the total cost of ownership’ and mean buying Windows NT. The alliance’s main Motherhood statement – on the importance of reducing the total cost of ownership of enterprise computing – was even claimed to have come out of a meeting between Platt and Gates and 300 of their biggest joint European customers last month, just to prove that ‘MicroHP’ is doing it purely for customer benefit only. Less noble a way of putting it, but more honest, was Gates’ comment that The theme of this announcement is not just making NT better, but helping putting it into the systems customers have today. (Or even on top of, or replacing?). But Microsoft could never have made Windows NT the evolutionary competitor to midrange systems like Unix without a partner which really could claim to understand the enterprise, an attribute supremely applicable of Lew Platt’s Hewlett-Packard, which has 4,500 professional consultants and 18,000 support professionals worldwide, an army of Windows NT commandos that Microsoft can now aim squarely at the heart of the market. Which makes the putative alliance with moldering Digital Equipment Corp even more risible now than it ever was – as DEC becomes a ho-hum Windows NT value- added reseller, Hewlett-Packard steps up to the plate as the real corporate partner Microsoft has always wanted. In later years, we will mark this week as Unix’s true Stalingrad.