THIS coming year, Microsoft will introduce a product that could make it an important force in a key area where it now lags behind rivals such as Novell and IBM: linking computers in the workplace.
With the forthcoming Windows NT (standing for "new technology") operating system, "we're trying to put into our systems more and more of the features that big corporations want," says Microsoft Paul Maritz.
These features include better security, the ability to run power-hungry applications like order processing and accounting.
"There is no guarantee that NT is going to be a success," says George Colony of Forrester Research. He notes that Unix, a type of operating system that currently holds a large share of the high-performance computing market, took 15 years "to reach critical mass." Thus, "even if NT is a success, ... it's going to take three or four years."
Nor is the competition standing idly by.
Novell, the leading provider of network-managing software, on Monday agreed to buy A.T.&T.'s Unix System Laboratories, which is coming out with a version of Unix that offers some of Windows's ease-of-use virtues. Novell hopes to rally users of Unix's many "flavors" around its new system, and to broaden Unix's appeal.