Microsoft Exec: Windows, Linux Squeeze Unix

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-01-03 Print this article Print

Despite optimistic predictions for Linux, Microsoft executive downplays threat and says Windows is taking market share from Unix in the x86 market.

Linux distributions continue to amass on the border of Windows Servers enterprise territory, but top executives at Microsoft Corp. are not blinking. Thats because the real battle for software growth this year, they say, will center on low-cost, high-volume x86 hardware and drawing enterprises away from proprietary Unix.

Officials for the Redmond, Wash., company contend that Microsoft is more than holding its own against proprietary Unix flavors such as Sun Microsystems Inc.s Solaris, IBMs AIX and Hewlett-Packard Co.s HP-UX. Part of that confidence stems from the numbers. "Microsoft sold more units of Windows [Server] than all flavors of Unix combined for the first time," said Bob Muglia, Microsofts senior vice president for Windows Server, in an interview.

"This is a very big deal. Now the world ecosystem around IT makes more money on Windows than they make on all of Unix combined. Thats a pretty big deal to us."

Some enterprise users, such as Brian Riley, a senior programmer and analyst at a large U.S. health care services company, said server choices are dictated by the application. And in his case, that means Windows. Riley is replacing two IBM AS/400s with an application that runs on Windows Server 2003. The company still runs AIX on some x86 boxes.

"The real issue is the platform on which the applications are being written because that is the platform that people are going to choose. They usually choose the application first, then base their operating system choice on that," Riley said.

And, despite accelerating growth of Linux in the enterprise, Microsoft is as confident as ever. A study released late last month by IDC, of Framingham, Mass., shows that many enterprises will choose Linux as their application platform over Windows.

The report, which surveyed IT managers in 10 countries on customer adoption plans and perceptions relating to Linux, predicted that revenue growth for packaged applications and infrastructure software running on Linux will exceed $14 billion in the next four years, growing at a compound annual rate of more than 44 percent.

The IDC report, "Worldwide Linux 2004-2008 Forecast: Moving from Niche to Mainstream," also found that the combined worldwide market for desktops, servers and packaged software running on Linux is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25.9 percent worldwide, reaching $35.7 billion by 2008. Meanwhile, new and redeployed PCs running Linux are forecast to grow to $10 billion and 17 million units by 2008 with an installed base of more than 42.6 million units.

Microsofts Muglia downplayed the significance of those figures. The percentage growth of Windows will be smaller than for Linux because of Windows much larger installed base, Muglia said, adding that Microsoft continues to track how well it is doing against Linux, which grew by a smaller percentage last year than it had in 2003.

"Its growth has slowed, and we still view Linux as a technology that is used by our competitors to build competitor technologies to Microsoft," Muglia said. "By and large, we are doing more than holding our own in most categories and are even going after some categories where Linux has dominated."

Click here to read about Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmers claims that Windows is more secure than Linux. James Dobson, a systems architect at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H., disagreed with Muglias assessment, saying that Microsoft is wrong to state that vendors are using Linux to make competitive systems. "It is the customers that are building systems and solutions with Linux. This is the major benefit of a real open system," Dobson said.

Muglia also disputed industry reports that most Unix migrations from proprietary x86 systems are to Linux rather than to Windows, saying that Microsoft research shows that about 60 percent of those migrations are to Windows.

Next Page: Going after Novell customers.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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