Digital Unveils Upgraded Ultrix Operating System

Stefan Fatsis
The Associated Press

August 23, 1988

BOSTON -- Digital Equipment Corp. on Tuesday unveiled an upgraded version of its Ultrix software in what analysts said was a new commitment to software that many brands of computers can use.

In a surprise, Digital also said that 10 percent of its revenue _ almost $1 billion _ came from computer systems that primarily use the Ultrix operating system.

Digital, the No. 2 computer maker behind International Business Machines Corp., also announced new software for hooking computers of different makes together in networks.

Digital's Ultrix is a base layer of software that allows customers to run the same programs on a variety of different computers. It is a version of the Unix software created by American Telephone & Telegraph Co.

Digital said its new Ultrix is the first that complies with all industry standards and specifications, including the ones announced Monday by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

The new version of Ultrix, called Ultrix-32 Version 3, ranges in price from $2,100 to $56,000.

Digital until last year had been reluctant to give wholehearted support to Ultrix, preferring that customers use its own VMS software, which only works on Digital computers.

"What Digital is recognizing is that they will have to meet the user demand for open systems and they are prepared to put money and organizational commitment behind that," said Nina Lytton, an analyst with the Yankee Group.

Digital said the new Ultrix software is applicable to engineering computing, scientific research, government agencies, and aerospace, automotive and oil industries.

"I think we're responding to a marketplace change in demand," said Don McInnis, Digital's vice president for engineering systems. "More and more customers are interested in open operating systems and we'll be responsive to that."

Digital also played a role in founding the $100 million Open Software Foundation, which announced Monday it would set up headquarters in Cambridge. Digital, IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co. and four other big computer makers formed the consortium to develop a software operating system that no single company would control.

Industry analysts viewed the project as a move by those computer makers against AT&T and its partner, Sun Microsystems Inc., which together controlled the popular Unix operating system.

Digital in September 1987 reorganized its marketing structure to include operating systems and in December appointed two vice presidents responsible for Ultrix, marking a major change in emphasis.

At the news conference, Digital said revenue from computers, software and services based on its Ultrix operating system now accounts for about 10 percent of total revenue. Digital last year reported revenues of $9.39 billion.

"It seems to have been a well-kept secret on the outside," independent analyst Sonny Monosson said. "I never realized it was so high."

Copyright 1988. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.