We recently had an opportunity to attend Hewlett-Packard’s 1997 executive briefing for industry analysts and came away impressed with how quickly the company is reacting to the changes sweeping through the computer industry. HP seems to redefine itself more rapidly than any other major company in this industry. The three key subjects this year were the continuing explosion of the Internet/intranet, the emergence of electronic commerce as one of the growth areas of the future and the recognition that Windows NT has become a key industrial tool.
From Lou Platt (president and CEO) and Rick Belluzzo (executive vice-president and general manager of HP’s Computer Organization) on down, everyone at HP goes out of their way to emphasize that UNIX will continue to play a significant role in the company’s product line for years to come. Microsoft’s Windows NT is becoming increasingly important within the technical community, but large organizations seem reluctant to make a wholesale switch at this time.
There are two reasons for this; many engineering and information technology managers believe that UNIX is more reliable and more scalable than NT, and since the price of UNIX workstations has come down dramatically recently, few managers want to incur the pain of an operating system transition to save perhaps less than $10,000 per seat.
HP is taking a number of steps to maintain its existing UNIX business while at the same time taking advantage of the growing interest in Windows NT.
1) It has merged together the previously separate technical and commercial UNIX servers operations. The differences between the two classes of servers are fairly inconsequential today and many organizations use the same systems to support both the high-end computational needs of engineers and the data processing needs of MIS departments.
2) More significantly, HP is moving its UNIX workstation organization into the company’s Personal Information Products Group. This will facilitate providing users with a mix of UNIX and NT desktop systems. In the past, the Workstation operation has had a very pro-active industry marketing operation while the PC operation had little activity in this area. We believe that combining the two groups in one umbrella organization will result in a more coordinated product strategy for HP’s technical customers.
3) To support the blending together of the UNIX and NT worlds, HP has introduced new software products that facilitate operating mixed environments including the Enterprise File System which we discussed last month.
4) As we also described last month, HP is forging a closer working relationship with Microsoft. This relationship will be particularly important later this decade when Intel and HP release their mutually developed Merced (or I-64 as it is known in some quarters) microprocessor. That chip will require a new 64-bit version of Windows NT if it is to be successful.