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IBM-SCO Unix deal may raise question over PPC future

And it may also mean IBM's Intel AIX development was a crock...

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IBM's Unix deal with SCO and Sequent, announced yesterday (See earlier story), could provide Big Blue with an escape hatch from the PowerPC adventure, as well as possibly ringing the death-knell for SCO. IBM may have just announced a rev of its Risc platform plus a roadmap that takes the line comfortably into the next century -- but then, so has HP. HP ultimately intends to migrate its PA-Risc users to IA-64, and it's by no means alone. A long list of workstation, mid-range and mainframe vendors has now switched to the Intel camp, and as these companies were largely potential or actual customers for the old Motorola-IBM PowerPC alliance, IBM PowerPC (now free-standing, thanks to the split) looks more than a little exposed. IBM can't dump PowerPC in the short term, as it needs the chips for RS/6000 and AS/400, but long-term development of what is more or less a one-company chip will be difficult to justify, and switching development resources over to embedded PowerPC (as Motorola, which didn't really have choice, has done) must have its attractions. But IBM has taken its time in figuring out how to deal with one of the last of the errata left over from the pre-Gerstner regime. PowerPC was intended as a mass-market challenger to Intel, and an OS that ran across PowerPC and Intel therefore made sense. IBM built several -- AIX for x86 (didn't ship, but The Register saw it in Boca a long time ago), Windows NT (IBM pulled the plugs on development of the PPC version) and OS/2-Taligent (ghastly semi-prelease shipped as special bid only, and got killed-off). All this running round in circles must have been a distraction, but as it's several years since the last twitch, the SCO deal is still late -- maybe IBM's notoriously self-centred RS6K people have spent thee past two years screwing-up AIX for Intel, and this is the rescue plan. Significantly, SCO's IA-64 development is pretty well advanced, so although IBM may not be buying a completely shrink-wrapped fix, it could be close. Also significantly, analysts are beginning to predict that consolidation in the Unix market is going to parallel that of the chip market. Gartner analyst Ed Thompson reckons Solaris and HP-UX will survive, plus one other. This raises questions over SCO, AIX, Digital and SGI. SCO is one of the two weakest of these, popular but short on development resources, and Compaq's takeover of Digital puts one of its major alliances in some peril. The IBM deal may therefore allow SCO to rebuff an offer from Eckhard it couldn't have otherwise refused. ® Click for more stories

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