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The inside story on Alpha and NT

Retracts restructuring warning

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Updated What actually happened between Microsoft and Compaq when the latter pulled the rug on 32-bit Alpha NT in mid-August, and one week later did the same with 64-bit Alpha NT? Information Week is reporting today that Compaq said it will not take a restructuring charge, as it reported yesterday, which gives a fresh twist to the tale. According to the latest story on the Web, the programme to protect its customers will now be covered by normal operating costs. Our information differs somewhat from this. According to sources close to the company, Compaq will award all of its 68,000 (or so) employees options on 200 shares of Q stock. This could amount to as much as 13.6 million shares. Our insiders wonder about the whole, mysterious, tale. Yet the Microsoft-Compaq deal is, in itself interesting. Here we defer to top Q watcher, Terry Shannon, whose newsletter Shannon knows Compaq seems to have sifted the chaff from the wheat. Apparently, Microsoft was as shocked as the world and its dog at Compaq's decision to pull the plug on NT. While 64-bit NT seemed to live a whole week longer than 32-bit NT, this was because Redmond and Houston were chatting (negotiating) about the future. Microsoft wanted Windows to run on the Wildfire platform to prove that NT was scaleable, given that the charge of non-scaleability is continually being advanced by opponents. And Compaq was in for the idea of 64-bit NT for the Alpha, just as long as Microsoft paid for the privilege of the proof point. Microsoft didn't want to pay and so Win64 for the Alpha fell into desuetude, a place between Washington State and Texas. There's some history to this. In 1995, DEC promoted NT as part of a body called the Alliance for Enterprise Computing. According to insiders, DEC took the Microsoft shilling of support (worth very little indeed in 1995), without bothering to negotiate aggressively for this. Indeed, if DEC had hargued harder, Microsoft might well have granted it a guarantee of Alpha and Intel applications parity, rather than the server side parity it instead obtained. And how has Compaq's decision to deck Alpha NT affected the current state of the platform. According to Shannon, two years back Alpha sales by operating system were 60 per cent Unix, 30 per cent Open VMS, and 10 per cent NT. Sales by OS are now 65 per cent Tru64 and 35 per cent Open VMS. Shannon tells us that Alpha sales did not drop when Compaq dropped NT support, and says he accepts that it lost no customers in the US at least because of the decision to drop NT. ®

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