Windows NT is fragmenting from a single source operating system into a family of products in line with Microsoft's aim of making it the dominant ingredient of the business infrastructure.
While NT comprises three operating systems - Workstation, Server and Enterprise Edition - this figure will rise to eight by 2002, each coming with its own packaging and pricing model, said Thomas Bittman, vice president of Gartner Group, at the research company's Symposium in San Diego last week.
A Datacentre Server and Embedded version will be added next year, followed by 64-bit versions of the Enterprise and Datacentre variants by 2001.
A consumer release will appear by 2002 and Windows CE and Smart Card versions are also expected to emerge over time.
Bittman added: 'Microsoft sees different opportunities in different markets and that means different pricing models. But it's finding that one size fits all doesn't work and NT will grow into a family. It will say it's just different packages, but there are already four different teams working on NT - a standard, a data centre, an embedded and a consumer team.
'By 2001, NT will be the vendor's most important product as it tries to expand up into the enterprise and down into the mobile market,' Bittman predicted.
'The company is about volume and leverage - we are talking about high margins in software. While Microsoft will continue to merge the NT and Windows 98 code bases to eliminate dual development and leverage code, we will see more packages based around the NT kernel,' he added.
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