Is NT Windows?

In 1988, Dave Cutler and a group of developers left Digital Equipment Corporation for Microsoft to develop a new operating system (OS) that would scale from the smallest electronic devices to the largest mainframe. The result is what we know today as Windows NT. Given the background of NT's developers and Microsoft's insistence on branding NT as "Windows," a question arises: As IS managers consider NT for business-critical applications, are they betting their companies on Windows, or are they convinced that there is more to the NT story than Windows?

In fact, Mark Russinovich's articles, "Windows NT and VMS: The Rest of the Story...," page 114, and "NT vs. UNIX: Is One Substantially Better?" page 121, point out that, unlike Windows, NT has a heritage not from the consumer PC environment, but from the enterprise mainframe environment. NT's roots have much more to do with Digital's (now Compaq's) VMS and with UNIX than with Windows. And NT is increasingly resembling a full-fledged enterprise OS: It has numerous VMS- and UNIX-like features (and a Windows GUI).

Good-bye Wintel, Hello MicroPaq!
A former Digital executive once told me that, early in NT's evolution, Digital had sued Microsoft for copying portions of VMS. However, neither Digital nor Microsoft wanted this suit to go to trial, so the out-of-court settlement resulted in the Microsoft/Digital alliance. In this settlement, Microsoft paid Digital millions of dollars to train Digital employees, buy Digital hardware, and create a long-term technology exchange between the Microsoft and Digital OS-development teams.

Today, Compaq owns this agreement. In addition, Compaq now owns three enterprise-level OSs: OpenVMS, Digital UNIX, and Tandem Non-Stop. Nobody questions whether these three OSs can run an enterprise. Under the Microsoft/Compaq alliance, or MicroPaq, Microsoft and Compaq have the opportunity to add features from Compaq's OSs into future versions of NT. This MicroPaq alliance could result in the next wave of enterprise computing.

MicroPaq could also bring the end of the Microsoft/Intel alliance, or Wintel. The other day, an Intel representative said, "We hate Microsoft. We're going to do a huge initiative around UNIX." Shocked by this remark, I began to consider what's going on. Compaq is using AMD chips for its consumer systems and Alpha chips for its enterprise-class systems. Could MicroPaq use enough non-Intel silicon to hurt Intel? Yes, and where MicroPaq goes, many will follow. And MicroPaq is headed toward the enterprise.

Rewriting History
Ironically, just as NT is becoming a serious enterprise contender, Microsoft has decided to remove the "NT" from Windows. As I'm writing this editorial, Microsoft has decided to change the name of Windows NT 5.0 to Windows 2000, and give it the tag line, "Built on NT Technology." Windows NT Workstation 5.0 will be Windows 2000 Professional, Windows NT Server 5.0 will be Windows 2000 Server, and the Enterprise Edition will be Windows 2000 Advanced Server.

Why? As serious business IS users of NT, we all know that NT is not Windows. We equate Windows with Windows 9x. However, since Microsoft has decided to migrate everyone--both consumer and business users--to NT, it has feared that the "Windows" brand would die with Windows 98. The Windows brand is everything to Microsoft, so the company decided to call NT Windows 2000, thus ensuring the continuation of the Windows brand.

No matter how many times I say "Windows 2000," I still have a hard time associating that name with the enterprise. Perhaps I'll get used to it. Or perhaps Windows 2000 will be like New Coke, and we'll all convince Microsoft to bring back "NT Classic." Write me and let me know what you think.

The Name of the Game
Besides the OS, NT's name change affects the title of this magazine. But no matter what we call it, this publication will continue to help serious NT implementers do their job.

As the NT market heats up and other NT publications come and go, people ask me where Windows NT Magazine is headed. We will continue to emphasize the core enterprise topics that we've always focused on: scalability, availability, security, interoperability, mission-critical applications, performance, and manageability (of systems, networks, and data). These seven IS themes are timeless. They were important 10 years ago and will be important 10 years from now. These topics represent the very heartbeat of this publication and NT's position in the market. These topics describe NT itself--NT classic.

Is NT Windows? No. And let's hope that more of NT gets into Windows than Windows gets into NT. Will NT be called Windows? Yes, and you may be the last generation to know where NT really came from, because now you know the rest of the story.

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