Cyber Cynic

Unix v. NT. Get Real!

By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
Sm@rt Reseller

May 28, 1998

Stop the Unix vs. NT madness. The answer is Unix—with the right marketing.

I can't stand it anymore. If I hear one more Unix vs. NT argument, I'm never going to look at a Unix Korn shell or an NT Registry again.

Although I get bored to death by the eternal NT/Unix flame wars, they are the best operating systems in existence. Forget MacOS 8, OS/2 and Windows 95/98; when I want to get the most from a box, give me Unix or NT.

That said, I have a request for everyone who ever wrote a message to anyone about how much better one is over the other: Stop it now. Thank you. Thank you very much.

So, which one really is better? Easy, it's Unix. My OS of choice is faster, more reliable and is much more expandable.

Trust me. I cut my teeth on Unix in the early '80s and have been using NT since its origin. Technically speaking, there's no contest between the two. Don't buy it? Consider this simple fact: My ancient Interactive Unix (Interactive's legacy is now incorporated into Santa Cruz Operations projects) has been up and running non-stop for two years now. Meanwhile, my box running NT 4.0 Service Pack 3 goes down at least once every six weeks.

So why is NT getting so much press? One word: marketing. Microsoft is so good at it that the company really could sell refrigerators to Eskimos. Because of this, hundreds of independent software vendors are producing NT applications and users are clamoring for them.

Unix companies also have never been much help for resellers. With their multitude of incompatible operating system variants, Unix vendors have been shooting themselves, and us, in the foot for years.

Between little to no marketing and in-house fighting among Unix vendors, it's no surprise that NT is rapidly taking over the small server and even the technical workstation markets.

But don't despair. All is not yet lost. Unix still has strong holds to call its own. Vertical applications remain many Unix resellers' bread and butter. High-end servers, ISP servers, electronic commerce, these and anything that must run right the first time—and every time thereafter—are still firmly in Unix's hands.

What's a reseller to do? Well, if you're in Unix, then you should get the word to the marketing people to start pounding on Unix's virtues like The Who's legendary drummer Keith Moon banging on his drums. Get thee to the Ad department!

But you better forget about winning back markets now dominated by Microsoft. Short of the Department of Justice putting NT 5.0 on detention for a few years—it could happen—Unix will not be recovering any of its lost territory.

If you're in NT, the key is to stick with the Microsoft party line—ease of use and application availability. Although you want to spell out the differences between yourself and hundreds of other NT resellers, you have the luxury of riding the Microsoft tide without much effort on your part.

Which one is the best? I've already answered that—technically speaking. Sometimes, though, it's not the best product that wins, it's the one that can represent itself as the best. And, like it or not, for many of your customers that means choosing NT.

Copyright 1998