International Business Machines Corp., long dominant in core operating systems for banks, is beginning to get a run for its money from Microsoft Corp.

For example, two prominent systems companies - Olivetti North America and FIS Inc. - said last month that an integrated software package they are putting together will run only under Microsoft's client/server operating system, Windows NT.

The package will combine Olivetti's Mosaic OA branch automation system and FIS' Dollar System for core processing.

IBM's competing operating system, OS/2, is dominant among banks with more than $1 billion of assets. MS-DOS, an earlier Microsoft product, is most prevalent in smaller organizations.

Windows NT, a souped-up, graphically enhanced version of MS-DOS, is poised for growth, said a recent study by Mentis Corp. of Durham, N.C.

The study concluded that demand for Windows NT, which still has only a fraction of OS/2 and MS-DOS market share, will grow, particularly on the client end.

IBM disputes the prediction that Windows NT will overtake its product. "We're still seeing increased demand for OS/2," said Ian Cauley, an IBM spokesman. It has "continued to gain market share in the retail banking arena."

But the CEO of the Olivetti unit, Ted DeMerritt, said all of its future products will run only under Windows NT.

Olivetti North America, a branch automation specialist based in Liberty Lake, Wash., "did market analysis and evaluation and determined that NT looked like it would become the market leader," Mr. DeMerritt said. "It is our impression that everyone is moving in that direction."

FIS also sees Windows NT as a vital part of its future. Of its clients looking to replace or expand their operating systems, "the most progressive are looking at NT," said Janis Y. Lorraine, vice president in charge of the Dollar System.

Community Savings Bank of Riviera Beach, Fla., will be the first bank to test the Windows NT-based system developed by FIS and Olivetti.

Windows NT was a factor in the bank's choice of Mosaic/FIS. "We felt it was the way of the future," said Mary Lou Kaminske, senior vice president of operations at Community Savings.

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