The Guardian (Manchester); 30 August 1990; Claire Neesham; p. 31

Dec plays the Unix card

WHEN it comes to Unix, Digital Equipment is not known for its open support. But the company is hoping to change its image with the September launch of an advertising campaign designed to convince the market that DEC is a Unix supplier that users can depend on. The campaign is the first to come from the company's specialist new Unix technical and marketing group. David Neal, UK marketing manager for Unix, says DEC will now use the term Unix rather than Ultrix. It will also sell Unix systems separately to open systems. He adds: ``Customers are not responding to open systems at the moment they are asking for Unix. The potential of this market is so great we must go after it.'' Until two years ago DEC was the largest supplier of Unix systems. It offered AT&T's Unix System V and Ultrix, it's version of BSD (Berkeley) Unix. It supplied hardware for many BSD Unix systems at US colleges. It is now committed to SCO's Open Desktop suite, too. But the company has failed to profit from the current enthusiasm for Unix. Sun Microsystems has knocked DEC from the top spot as a Unix supplier, while companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Pyramid and Sequent are galloping ahead in the commercial Unix market. Neal says the company has to catch up. He adds, ``It is going to be very serious if we don't, because if the company is not selling systems then it is hitting the heartland of its business.'' In the past few months, DEC has accelerated the porting of Unix software to its Risc-based DECsystem and DECstation servers and workstations. It will also offer Unix on the VAX 9000 mainframe from September. Investment in Unix is now on a par with DEC's VAX VMS operating system, it says, and some DEC employees' careers will now depend on the number of Unix systems they sell. At corporate level Dom Lacava, a senior company vice-president, has been appointed head of the Unix software and systems business group. This will effectively operate as an independent company along with the other 17 groups that make up the ``new'' DEC. Charles Casale, president of Boston research firm The Aberdeen Group, believes DEC has been forced to take a business group approach to compete with product-driven companies such as Sun. But to do this effectively, the company will need to do more than just change a few job titles. It has to move away from its philosophy of the last decade the ``One company, one strategy, one message'' culture of VAX VMS. Ken Olsen, DEC's founder and chief operating officer, acknowledges there is a place for both Unix and VMS. But at DECWorld, held in Boston last month, he compared Unix to a teenage breakdancer, while VMS was the 45-year-old businessman. Olsen was more enthusiastic about open systems, though reluctant to say when DEC would incorporate the Open System Foundation's OSF/1 Unix in its strategy. So there was much ``What Ken really meant'' talk among Unix enthusiasts at DECWorld. But if DEC is to succeed in what is a mature and competitive market, it can't afford to show fear, uncertainty or doubt over its Unix commitment.

<<< back