The industry is facing conflicting messages on the future of operating systems, with Microsoft saying that companies will be better off buying Windows NT 4 from shops rather than bundled with servers sold by PC suppliers.
That message will destroy many hardware companies' service strategies as they have insisted to Microsoft that server systems need customisation.
The news came hard and fast after Microsoft pulled the rug under its UK delivery service partners on Monday, with 70 per cent of its 1997 software strategy based on electronic distribution rather than boxes. That begs questions about its future OS strategy.
An MS representative said: 'Microsoft has told big server vendors they will no longer bundle NT with their machines.' He said the company no longer wants to supply server NT software with hardware.
Compaq reacted by saying it had a deal with Microsoft where NT 4 recognised its Smartstart CD-Rom at a software level.
IBM also bundles a CD, with different operating systems, with its servers.
A representative described Microsoft's decision as 'a bit odd'. He said robust operating systems needed to be installed carefully because of manageability and organisational issues. 'Servers are more complex than PCs. The best way to make sure a package like NT work is to include it with the server.'
Keith Warburton, executive director of the Personal Computer Association, said: 'Ostensibly, this is deskilling dealers, Vars and systems integrators, but the assumption is that professionals will be handling it. All of these computer companies said that using software would be easy, but it's not as easy as falling off a log.'
Hardware company Dell is giving away NT 4 with its server machines in a special bundle that will last until after the Christmas break.
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