Last February, I wrote about the demise of PowerPC and MIPS support for Windows NT. I encouraged readers to urge their software vendors to support Alpha and prevent NT from becoming an Intel-only operating system. If NT ran exclusively on Intel, Microsoft could rewrite it in Intel assembly language and focus on performance. Of course, that development would spell the end of NT's chip portability, and we would lose access to the fastest CPUs for NT. Furthermore, the availability of alternative platforms drives innovation that would be lacking in the NT community if Alpha left the scene.
At that time, I encouraged users to support Alpha, but I couldn't find a division within Digital Equipment that was actively promoting Alpha and NT. Apparently, each division was hoping that another division would get the word out, and I was wondering whether Alpha was headed towards the fate of PowerPC and MIPS.
Readers were wondering, as well. Several of you wrote me, asking Windows NT Magazine to take up the Alpha cause. For example, I recently received the following letter from Daniel Monjar, a systems manager from Organon Teknika:
I've been a Digital user since 1986, and I understand the performance advantages of the Alpha processors. I now have nine Alpha servers (five NT, three VMS, and one UNIX), and performance is great. I don't feel "scared" being in a non-Intel world.
I haven't had to serve applications yet, so finding native Alpha software hasn't been a problem. However, we've recently had to change the direction of an imaging project because Keyfile's Keyflow doesn't run under Alpha NT, and the company has no intention of porting. However, my current VMS faxing solution, FaxSR from Omtool, runs on Alpha NT with no problem. Perhaps a column in your magazine will help make vendors and Digital aware of such problems and make them more responsive to user needs.
Fortunately, Digital is now addressing Alpha concerns. In June, Digital Semiconductor, Samsung, and Mitsubishi launched an AlphaPowered branding campaign to raise awareness for the platform. The primary emphasis is on the workstation market because each of these partners measures its success by the number of chips sold, but this campaign will also encourage software vendors to port their NT applications to Alpha. The initiative is targeting software vendors that can really make a difference in each market segment and includes a Web site (http://www.alphapowered.com) that lists more than 2500 NT applications that run on Alpha.
One key software vendor is Microsoft. Although Microsoft supports most of the BackOffice products on Alpha, significantly fewer workstation products are available for Alpha than for Intel. According to Robert Bismoth, Microsoft's VP responsible for the Microsoft and Digital alliance, that situation is about to change. He claims that by 1998, workstation products such as Office 97 will come out simultaneously for Intel and Alpha.
I'll believe that claim when I see it.
One action that Microsoft is taking will definitely promote Alpha: debuting the 64-bit version of NT on Alpha. Microsoft's decision not to wait for Intel's 64-bit Merced chip will give Digital Equipment a two-year head start in the 64-bit NT market. You can be sure that Intel has no desire to leave 64-bit NT business to Alpha and will push the development of its chip in an effort to win your business.
In a recent survey of this magazine's readers, we learned that 14 percent of you are using Alpha-based NT servers, and 6 percent are using Alpha-based workstations. Based on your current purchasing plans, those numbers will grow in the next 12 months.
That news is good for Alpha, and we're happy to support our readers who use Alpha. So, to answer Daniel Monjar: Yes, we will take on the role of advocate for users of NT on Alpha. First, let me point you to a long-time Alpha advocate, Aaron Sakovich. His Web site (http://dutlbcz.lr.tudelft.nl/alphant/) tracks the progress of NT on Alpha and includes information about how to subscribe to the AlphaNT newsgroup and a list dedicated to users of NT on Alpha. In future issues of Windows NT Magazine, you'll find increased Alpha coverage. This month's Reader to Reader section explores a reader's thoughts on migrating from the Mac to NT on Alpha. Next month, our news editor, Mark Joseph Edwards, will review FX!32. Aaron, Mark, and others will be covering the progress and pitfalls of Alpha in future issues, and we welcome your input.
I've encouraged you to insist that your software vendors offer both Intel and Alpha code. I'll do my part by continuing to provide editorial content for both platforms.