Report: IBM takes Unix server crown

IBM Corp. has narrowly squeezed past rival Sun Microsystems Inc. to become the world’s top Unix server vendor for the first time since 1998, market research group IDC said Friday.

Moving into the top spot from third place last year, IBM accounted for 26.9 per cent of worldwide Unix server sales during the fourth quarter of 2001, compared to 26.8 per cent from second-place Sun, IDC said. Hewlett-Packard Co. came in third, with a market share of 25 per cent.

Sun, however, challenged the accuracy of IDC’s figures, saying that its estimates of Unix server revenue at IBM and HP had been inflated. “According to the other source, which is Gartner (Inc.), we were ahead of IBM in Unix revenue by US$600 million in quarter four,” said Shahin Khan, Sun’s chief competitive officer.

Nevertheless, Khan acknowledged that IBM has become a more formidable competitor in the Unix server segment. “We used to compete a lot more with HP and now we compete a lot more with IBM,” he said.

Overall, the fourth quarter was tough on server vendors, IDC said.

Factory revenues tumbled 26 per cent to US$12.6 billion from $16.9 billion during the same period one year ago, according to IDC. Unit shipments also declined, falling seven per cent to 1.1 million units. But the worst may be over for vendors. IDC said the downturn in demand for servers has bottomed out, and companies are starting to once again invest in Internet-related infrastructure.

In the high-end server market, IBM again claimed the top spot with a 28 per cent share of the worldwide market, IDC said. Compaq Computer Corp. came in second with a 16 per cent share followed by HP in third place with 14.4 per cent.

Overall, IBM took the top spot with a 32 per cent share of worldwide server revenue, IDC said. Trailing IBM in second place was Compaq (17 per cent), followed by HP (14 per cent), Sun (12 per cent) and Dell Computer Corp. (seven per cent).

One notable addition to the list of top server makers is Hong Kong-based Legend Holdings Ltd. The company, which primarily conducts business in China, was the world’s tenth-largest provider of server hardware during the fourth quarter, according to IDC.