The news that Jean Yates now works as an analyst with International Data Corporation – IDC bought out her Yates Ventures business a couple of years back – might leave readers of IDC’s latest report, The Unix Systems Marketplace 1986-1992, just slightly uneasy. It would be inaccurate and unfair to lay the blame on for […]
The news that Jean Yates now works as an analyst with International Data Corporation – IDC bought out her Yates Ventures business a couple of years back – might leave readers of IDC’s latest report, The Unix Systems Marketplace 1986-1992, just slightly uneasy. It would be inaccurate and unfair to lay the blame on for the wildly optimistic growth forecasts for sales of Unix which began to appear from around 1983 on any one person or organisation – AT&T’s unfamiliar commercial freedom following deregulation in 1984 made them more than willing to contribute wholesale to the hype – but Ms Yates’ figures spread widely enough through the industry so that even today her name is still used by many as a synonym for Utopian predictions. Early in 1983 most of us were led to believe that within three years there would be over 3.5m Unix systems installed worldwide. History records a much more modest figure of some 600,000.
Even now, most people remain sceptical of such forecasts, although IDC’s claims for 28% average future growth, especially in the IBM Personal Computer market (which includes workstations and 80386-based super-ATs), are solid rather than sensational, but the main value of the report lies in the figures themselves rather than projected forecasts. It has long been a complaint that actual numbers of sales in the UK and Europe were just not available, so those with vested interests would claim vastly inflated or deflated figures, depending upon their own point of view, with no fear of contradiction. Here at last is some credible information. IDC collates figures for the computer industry as a whole, from which those for the Unix market have been extracted. The catalogue of events affecting the success (or otherwise) of Unix is starting to sound like a well worn gramophone record: the push for standards, entry of major vendors, government mandates and so forth. The authors of the report’s preamble were obviously impressed by the penetration of X/Open vendors into the market (though how many X/Open-compliant systems this represents is not clear) and devote two pages to its history. Whilst noting the fact that all the major vendors now offer Unix, they do point out that this can often be a token gesture which ensures consideration when they bid on lucrative contracts where it is mandatory. (And even here, companies are beginning to regret their half-hearted committment – Data General founder and chairman Ed de Castro acknowledges that his company should have taken the likes of Sun Microsystems much more seriously). Of the major players, of all the systems sold by Siemens, 65% by number are now sold to run Unix, representing 20% of its total computer business. In NCR’s product mix, 50% of its machines by number are now Tower Unix machines, representing 30% of its total in Europe. At DEC, not surprisingly, only 10% by number of the machines it sells are for Unix, whilst IBM only just shows up on the chart. More on the impact of Posix might have been interesting, particularly after DEC’s challenge to the US Air Force over specifying Unix System V, which DEC considers proprietary to one of its main competitors on the contract, AT&T (CI No 744). Now to the real figures. The number of Unix machines sold in Europe throughout 1986 was 58,463 units, with the total installed base now standing at 134,285. Total value of 1986 shipments was $1,445m. This is broken down by size of system: personal computers and workstations (4% and 18%); small scale systems costing less than $100,000 (54%); medium systems costing up to $1m (15%); and large scale systems (9%). Almost three quarters of this was spent in the four major European markets of the UK, West Germany, France and Italy, with the UK taking 25% and West Germany 23%. Looking at system sales as a whole, Unix accounted for around 6% of the value of all shipments. The report reveals a significantly stronger penetration of the commercial and general business market than is usually credited: around 65% of Unix systems were used for business rather than technical a
pplications. The report breaks down the figures further to show individual vendor share for Europe as a whole and for individual countries. Altos heads the list for systems under $100,000 in most countries, and had the largest share of the overall market in terms of shipment value with 22%, but in 1986 it was quietly overtaken by Siemens on the number of units shipped. The fact that Siemens is top of the tree by numbers in Europe, yet has scarcely scratched the surface in the UK with its late arrival on the UK computer market, underlines how open and competitive the UK market must be by comparison with Germany. In the medium systems category, DEC is way out in front with a 34% share of the total market, followed by IBM and Plexus Computers on 6%, and Olivetti on 5%. Numbers here, however, are small, with only 865 units sold in 1986 (value $218m). In the UK, 240 units were sold, with ABS Computers following DEC’s lead with a 13% share, then Plexus Computers (10%), Pyramid Technology (6%), and Data General, Olivetti and Sequent Computer, each with 4%.
Also included are tables showing the existing installed base by manufacturer. The hotly contested workstation market has been divided up as follows: Sun Microsystems comes out on top with 32.8%; Hewlett-Packard, 29.3%; Apollo Computers, 15.4%, and IBM, 6.7% of units sold. The absence of ICL from the lists – ironic in the context that it was an ICL initiative that led to the creation of X/Open, underlines the difficulty the UK’s flagship computer company has had in penetrating the Unix market – a fact to which it alluded at the time of STC Plc’s announcement of its half-time 1987 figures.IDC’s analysis of how the markets will develop up until 1992 includes strong growth in the Personal Computer and workstation sales, aided by the increasing use of the 80386 and its virtual machine capabilities. Profit-wise however, the low-end of the market is likely to show the least growth due to severe price cutting. Medium and large-scale systems should continue to show healthy growth. Geographically, fast-industrialising Spain, with less computing history to hold it back than other European nations, is tipped as the country most likely to take to Unix in a big way over the next five years, largely because it has such a long way to catch up on computerisation. The report, The Unix Systems Marketplace, 1986 to 1992, was published last week, but no-one at IDC Europa was able to put a price on it. IDC is on (01) 995-8082.