Windows Draws Even With Unix

For the first time, factory revenues for Unix and Windows servers were equal

Late last month, Microsoft Corp. toppled what many believed would never fall. For the first time ever, says market watcher International Data Corp. (IDC), Q1 factory revenues for Unix servers and Windows servers were equal.

According to IDC, the value of new server systems shipping with Windows during the first quarter was $4.2 billion, roughly equal to the Unix figures. What’s more, IDC says, each platform accounted for 34.4 percent of overall factory revenue.

Sagging sales of Unix servers are nothing new, of course. For several years, in fact, sales of Unix servers have been in decline, at least relative to the ascendance of Windows and (more recently) Llinux. The latest market research data puts this into glaring perspective, however, as few industry watchers predicted so drastic a reversal of fortune. IDC, for the record, nearly called it a tie last quarter, when it said the two markets were “essentially equal,” with Unix systems generating $4.0 billion in revenue and Windows servers generating $3.9 billion.

Momentum will almost certainly stay with Windows, at least for the foreseeable future. For the quarter, sales of Windows servers were up 12.3 percent year-over-year; Unix server sales, on the other hand, posted modest year-over-year growth of 2.8 percent. This was less than the growth of the overall enterprise server market, which expanded by 5.3 percent, year-over-year, in Q1. Elsewhere, IDC cited an uptick in demand for volume servers, which it says are the primary growth engines of the server market as a whole. Needless to say, few Unix servers can properly be classed as “volume” plays.

The irony, of course, is that Linux itself continues to grow—in a manner that suggests parallels with Windows’ own ascendance. At $1.2 billion, Linux server revenues trail those of Unix and Windows systems by a wide margin, but Linux server sales are growing at a more rapid pace—35.2 percent, year-over-year, in the first quarter of 2005. That was good enough to earn the OS a 10 percent stake of the worldwide server market, which IDC puts at $12.1 billion.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.