1996, Windows NT has increased its market share, and an ever increasing number of organizations have bet their business on this OS. For 1997, I foresee seven key areas that will affect enterprises that rely on NT.

  1. Clusters: In August, I wrote that Wolfpack, Microsoft's new clustering technology, has the potential to increase the existing market for high-availability clusters tenfold. Before any product has shipped, Microsoft has already partnered with the best enterprise players in the market. With the help of Digital, Tandem, IBM, Compaq, Intel, Amdahl, Stratus, Oracle, Vinca, and others, Microsoft has an incredible opportunity to bring this enterprise solution to the high-volume market. Look for the first Wolfpack-compliant solutions in the first quarter of 1997.
  2. The "Designed for Windows NT and Windows 95" logo: This new logo, which takes effect in January, will force all Windows 95 applications vendors to support NT. Look for a huge increase in native NT desktop applications.
  3. Pentium Pro: By the beginning of 1997, a fully configured 180MHz Pentium Pro-based (P6) system will cost around $2500. This development will spell the end of the Pentium series for corporate buyers. By spring, a P6 with 32MB of RAM will be the standard business desktop. Up to now, only RISC vendors were pre-installing NT Workstation, but now it will come bundled with the P6. This bundling will triple NT Workstation's market. On these systems, NT will significantly increase performance over Windows 95.
  4. RISC vendors: The combination of a 500MHz Alpha, a faster PowerPC, and the P6 will put a serious dent in the low-end UNIX workstation and server market. With the exception of Sun Microsystems, UNIX vendors have already begun to sell NT-based solutions. RISC vendors will spur Intel to get the P7, which HP codeveloped, in beta by 1997. All this chip power will fuel the move to make NT a 64-bit OS, pushing it even higher into the enterprise.
  5. Directory service: For the past year, Novell's NetWare Directory Service (NDS) has beat up NT's directory system, while NT has dominated NetWare as an application server platform. Once an organization starts depending on NT for serving applications, file and print services aren't far behind. In fact, the directory service battle is NetWare's last stand. If NT's new directory is as good as NDS, NT will put a serious dent in NetWare sales. However, if NT loses this battle, NetWare will continue to dominate as a networking platform and market share will increase. Look for Phase 1 of NT's new directory service in the first quarter of 1997.
  6. Third-party support: If I stacked the press releases I've received about new NT applications in the past three months, the pile would be nine feet tall! In 1997, we will see an increase in business-critical applications on NT. Already, more client/server accounting packages are available for NT than any other platform. Most application vendors who built their business on AS/400, UNIX, Mac, HP, and Windows are migrating their business-critical applications to NT. In addition to software vendors, hardware and service vendors will make NT their number one strategic platform in 1997. By the middle of 1997, we will start seeing device drivers and power management for NT. This development will further close the Win95 gap, making the selection of NT Workstation for the desktop easier than ever.
  7. Competition for the back office: Remember when we used to buy a word processor separately from a spreadsheet? Then came Microsoft Office and the beginning of buying suites. Similarly, the Internet/intranet is becoming a serious development platform that requires a solid database, systems management, host connectivity, document management, directory services, and messaging. Pricing and packaging will make buying the whole suite easy. Sensing this trend, IBM, Oracle, and Netscape have introduced products that compete directly with Microsoft BackOffice. This increased competition will force tighter integration of the suite with NT as a competitive advantage. In addition, these solid offerings will continue to push NT as an open platform.