IBM pulled the plug on the further support of NT on the PowerPC RISC chip at the end of last week, forcing its partners Bull and Motorola to follow. Maureen O’Gara of ClieNT Server News tells the story. IBM Corp last week confirmed that it was pulling the plug on its NT-on-PowerPC business which it […]
IBM pulled the plug on the further support of NT on the PowerPC RISC chip at the end of last week, forcing its partners Bull and Motorola to follow. Maureen O’Gara of ClieNT Server News tells the story. IBM Corp last week confirmed that it was pulling the plug on its NT-on-PowerPC business which it itself described as insignificant in terms of volume. In confirming the report, IBM said it spoke on behalf of its Compagnie des Machines Bull and Motorola Inc PowerPC partners as well. Bull in Paris confirmed the news for itself and also said that Motorola would not be using the Bull Escala, Estrella and Pegakid servers it takes as a Bull OEM customer for NT, as originally planned, but only for its AIX interests. Motorola initially denied that the reports were true – at least for its part – but at the eleventh hour confessed that its sojourn with NT was over, though it will continue to sell NT 4.0 on PowerStack IIs, if it can, until 5.0 arrives. Otherwise it intends to stop making all commercial NT workstations and servers.
Microsoft – not informed
Microsoft Corp was caught off-guard by the news and claimed it had not been informed of any such decisions. Ostensibly, its development of NT 5.0 for the PowerPC will continue until it is notified by IBM, Motorola and Bull of their intentions, and Microsoft has a chance to evaluate the situation for itself, according to personal and business systems group product manager Pat Fox, the man who deals with manufacturers on operating systems. Fox understandably waffled quite a bit, saying such things as We absolutely have no plans to abandon PowerPC development for NT, with the usual caveat that Microsoft is always scrutinising the financial investment in any development program and We certainly reserve the right in the future to determine if there’s hardware to warrant the investment. The wholesale abandonment of NT-on-PowerPC by its supporters also impacts Apple Computer Inc, whose own operating system strategy lies in tatters about its feet. Apple had been considering adopting NT-on-PowerPC but has been ambivalent about unveiling the server it has that runs it. Apple of course is the only company to have made significant use of the PowerPC, the chip IBM initially claimed would take down Intel Corp. IBM’s subsequent performance with the PowerPC would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad. IBM, which some 14 months ago closed the Power Personal Systems Division it set up to move PowerPC desktops and consigned the architecture to its RS/6000 Division, said it was pulling the plug on NT on its RS/6000 machines, including all the new configurations that it has announced in the last few weeks. IBM’s NT interests will be represented solely by its Intel-based servers and workstations. The RS/6000 Division’s 10-month experience with NT was enough to convince IBM to bail. IBM said there was no interest in the market for NT-on-PowerPC machines, and no defensible business reason why investment, particularly in NT 5.0, should continue. Apparently it will try to shift the few NT-on-PowerPC customers it does have on to NT-on-Intel. Naturally, everyone will continue to be supported. Didier Breton, vice president of Bull’s Open Systems Platform unit, said pretty much the same thing. There’s no demand, no foreseeable global volume, no applications despite the fact that the PowerPC crew had proved to its own satisfaction that the PowerPC had achieved a 25% price/performance advantage over Intel. Bull said it was trashing its internal NT development work as we went to press. Indicative of how recent the decision is, Bull showed a uniprocessor PowerPC 620 Pegakid low-end symmetrical multi- processing server at a suite at Comdex only last month and said it could run NT. Originally intended to take on Intel Standard High Volume boxes, they were to have made their debut in mid 1997, a year late. Bull’s larger Escala servers, the first PowerPC symmetrical multiprocessors, and a superset of Pegakid, were being remade with PCI buses for NT and had reached the prototype phase anticipating a
second quarter release, also much later than expected. Last month Bull also introduced 12 603 and 604 Estrella server models, based on Motorola’s Black Hawk desktop architecture, for NT to take on Compaq Computer Corp. Breton said that Bull, like IBM, will be retreating to Intel for its NT activities and will be negotiating with Zenith Data Systems, now merged with Packard with financial backing from both Bull and NEC Corp (CI No 2,847). Bull indicated IBM and Motorola had borne most of the financial exposure for NT.
Motorola – no retreat
Motorola, which has just unveiled its first PowerPC reference platform-compliant board, so that its systems could theoretically run a choice of NT, MacOS or AIX operating systems (CI No 3,056), claims that it is in a different situation than its brother companies, having thousands of apparently paid-for machines out with customers and with no possibility of an Intel platform to retreat to. Its salvation, if there is one, will be in the embedded PowerPC business, Macintosh clones, Windows CE and, if it can light on a suitable strategy, network computers. Meanwhile, it has to inform its third parties and end users of its decision. IBM, whose inability to commit to NT for political reasons is the major factor behind this ignominious defeat, has also made no move toward putting MacOS on PowerPC machines, though it has a license, and Apple’s disarray may obviate such a move. Motorola, at least, appears to be doing passably as an Apple cloner. PC Week suggests that IBM Microelectronics will now attempt to optimize the PowerPC for Java as well as network computers. And, aside from Digital Equipment Corp’s Alpha – which is by no means an assured bet for the future despite its higher performance levels – NT still remains a single-chip system. Intel must be having a good chuckle.