Who's hot, who's not? Unix SIG panelists tell us
We report on the recent Software Forum/UniForum gathering -- Learn why one insider thinks Bill Gates had the biggest influence on the Unix industry in '96
Sun was singled out as a major positive influence on the Unix industry this past year. Tom Mace, executive director of the UniForum Association, said that the focus on the Internet drove business to Unix and credited Scott McNealy for realizing that "this was a tremendous marketing opportunity that would save the company." Mace also gave kudos to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison for "bringing back terminals as something new." But perhaps most surprising, Mace believes Bill Gates had the most influence on Unix in 1996: "He ignored us for years. Now Unix has registered on his radar screen, and we have a competitor."
Meanwhile, Phil Johnson, a market research consultant, didn't consider Unix a major target for Microsoft's Windows NT this past year. He thinks this will come into play more significantly next year. For him, 1996 was the year "Java sliced through -- everywhere."
Andrew Binstock, editor-in-chief of Unix Review, also pointed to Sun for pushing its Solstice technology and capitalizing on the intranet, Java, and network computers. He said this showed the industry that "Unix isn't passe -- it's tremendously happening in the Unix space." However, Binstock said that if Java and NCs are successful, this will "ironically lead people to platform independence, and Unix's role becomes unclear."
When asked about the high and low points of Unix system providers in '96, the three panelists again praised Sun and were critical of Silicon Graphics Inc., Hewlett-Packard, and IBM. Binstock said that SGI hasn't articulated its vision and merely refined its low-end workstations. "The loss of Jim Clark was the loss of vision," he said. Johnson put Sun on his "thumbs-up list," and acknowledged The Santa Cruz Operation for "picking up Unixware very well and doing a good job courting HP." He is, however, concerned about the transitions HP must make in the coming year to change its business model and also compete more effectively in the PC space with Compaq. Another criticism: "IBM can't get its act together. It has good engineering and sales, but can't market it's way out of a paper bag. Neither can SGI."
In terms of the health of Unix DBMS vendors, the panelists agreed that Oracle has an overwhelming lead. They believe Informix resurrected itself with its Universal Server -- the result of integrating Illustra Information Technologies' components after Informix acquired that company. The panelists all noted Sybase's difficulty and downfall. "I find it astounding that Sybase hasn't been able to figure out what's wrong," Binstock said. "People went elsewhere, and Informix has benefited from this."
So where should we focus our attention in 1997? The panelists flag Java, security, and fault tolerance.
--Carolyn W.C. Wong
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