Clearly, the leaders of the Unix industry are worried. Worried enough to form their own marketing organization to handle the promotion and public relations activities of Unix on behalf of all the vendors. That organization, the Unix Systems Cooperative Promotion Group (USCPG), had its coming-out party at UniForum '97, with the clear purpose of stirring up interest and creating a fanfare for Unix, so as not to let public interest wane for lack of media attention.
The feeling at the group's official launching, under auspices of The Open Group, was that the vendors do not fear dying--clearly, Unix continues to grow each year--as much as a lack of attention that might lead to some tailing off in that growth. "There's a lot of doom and gloom about Unix," admitted Allen Brown vice president and chief operating officer of The Open Group. "It's all perception, but perception can become reality."
With a clear feeling among users that Unix has yet to "get its act together" and create a common user interface, the vendors saw that it was time to create some splash of their own to promote the virtues of Unix in much the same way as the Beef Industry Council markets cattle and the National Dairy Promotion Program builds interest in milk drinking with their "Beef-it's what's for dinner" and "Got milk?" campaigns, respectively. Work has already begun on the USCPG's promotion campaign.
Initial industry members of USCPG are Digital Equipment Corp., Siemens Pyramid Information Systems, Hewlett Packard, SCO, Sun Microsystems and IBM. Basic market research by The Open Group was conducted in 1994 and 1995 and participants have been meeting for about a year to work out the details of the marketing organization. The combined effort doesn't signify a lessening of competition among the companies, said USCPG chair Mark Silverberg, who is Unix product marketing manager for DEC. "We'll still compete in the open market and say good things and bad things about each other's products," he said. But consistent messages to the public about the advantages and success of Unix clearly are needed, he noted.
More than one company representative emphasized the need to strengthen support for and by the independent software vendors by providing more promotion of products and more consistent interfaces between software and platforms.
Although a move to Microsoft's Windows NT is one of the vendors' worries, HP's Todd Reece, general manager of the company's open systems software division, said, "This is not about Unix vs. NT. We need to look at how those systems will work together, and we need to integrate them." More than one company representative emphasized the need to strengthen support for and by the independent software vendors by providing more promotion of products and more consistent interfaces between software and platforms.
Vendors see that NT has established a presence and will grow. Preliminary data from the International Data Corp. shows that for 1996, the Unix industry had $20.5 billion in server sales, compared to $4.6 billion in sales for NT servers.
Key findings of The Open Group's research, conducted through focus groups and interviews with users, media and analysts, were:
- If Unix vendors do not hang together, they will hang separately. The lack of common Unix interfaces and Unix complexity are problems, but the situation can be turned around.
- Unix systems retain high-end system strengths, including stability and reliability, scalability, high throughput, superior database engines, and good Internet support.
- The move to Windows NT is based on a belief that Microsoft will evolve NT to the required functionality level and ISVs will develop stable, well-tested applications for it.
- Lack of Unix system visibility in the media harms sales.
Industry still clearly wants Unix systems, said Graham Bird, The Open Group's director of branding. "Unix is still almost a religion with people," he said. Reece added, "I think we have been wildly successful and we shouldn't lose sight of that."
The marketing effort will emphasize Unix's 25-year heritage, its stability, reliability and maturity, unmatched scalability and portability, its 15,000+ software applications, proven mission-critical and business-critical capabilities, its unmatched horsepower and depth of functionality, and openness.
The Unix installed base is now $122 billion, expected to reach $200 billion by the end of the century, Bird said. Annual market revenue for Unix products is at $39 billion today, expected to grow to $50 billion by 2000. Unix still has as a selling point its history of strong association with open systems, Bird added. Among most end users, "If they wanted open, they went to Unix."
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