Originally published in the February 1995 issue of Advanced Systems.


Year in review

IDC digests a year in which sales of workstations rebounded nicely.

By Laura C. Segervall & Nancy E. Battey

We at International Data Corp. (IDC) have concluded our preliminary analysis of the workstation market for 1994. (All figures here are early approximations; final figures are available from IDC, as are separate analyses of the server and the advanced operating environment markets.)

The workstation market rebounded from 1993's single-digit growth with approximately 40 percent increase in unit shipments and 15 percent equipment revenue growth. Workstation vendors shipped 895,000 systems worldwide, for an estimated $12.75 billion in revenues.

In 1994, workstation sales in Europe recovered steadily. Also, Windows NT adoption fell short of our expectation, though it was still an important contributor to overall market growth. IDC believes NT's slower growth is attributed to confusion surrounding the position of NT versus Windows 95; to the lack of major hardware/systems vendors driving its adoption; and to the delay in availability of Windows NT version 3.5 (Daytona). Also in '94, many workstation vendors recommitted themselves to their technical markets, which they had seemed to neglect in order to focus on growth opportunities in commercial applications.

Vendor roundup
Sun Microsystems remained the market leader by a sizable amount. The company's unit shipment growth from 1993 to 1994 was almost the same as what SGI shipped in all of 1994. Much of this unit growth can be attributed to volume sales of the SPARCstation 5, which overshot both IDC's and Sun's expectations. For 1994, IDC sees Sun refocusing on technical markets as the realization comes to bear that the commercial desktop market is very difficult for Unix vendors to penetrate.

Hewlett-Packard is very strong overall, and its workstation family is solid in product offerings. However, HP still lacks a coordinated workstation and server story, which would allow more scalability among its product family. (The introduction of the delayed HP-UX 10.0 will help address this issue.)

Digital had a better year than IDC anticipated, due in large part to economic recovery in Europe, which represented about half of Digital's workstation revenue in 1994. Digital is nearly through its transition to Alpha, with Alpha-based workstations representing 80 percent of 1994 shipments, compared with 45 percent in 1993.

IBM had an excellent year. It was the second fastest-growing workstation vendor by revenue. Though IDC includes only a small percentage of the RS6000s as workstation servers, they aided IBM's growth.

Silicon Graphics was again the fastest-growing workstation player in 1994, with 34 percent increase in unit shipments and 26 percent increase in equipment revenue; it continues to focus on technical sales and growing its own installed base.

The availability of Windows NT on Pentium systems has moved Intel into the number two position for microprocessor architectures in the workstation market, with more than 190,000 systems shipped. Meanwhile, Windows NT became the number-two workstation operating system, with an estimated 200,000 NT-based workstations and workstation servers shipped.

1995 outlook
With the top five vendors contributing to market growth, IDC anticipates that 1995 will provide a healthy market. Economic conditions still look favorable, and the migration toward client/ server architectures continues.

About the author
Laura Segervall (lsegervall@idcresearch.com) is manager of Workstation Research. Nancy E. Battey (nbattey@idcresearch.com) is director of Workstation Research for IDC.

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Last updated: 1 February 1995.