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October 6, 1991


By CBR Staff Writer

The quiet preference of a majority of its founders for Unix System Laboratories Inc’s Unix System V.4 over the OSF/1+Ultrix-based Open Desktop touted at the launch of the consortium looks like driving the Advanced Computing Environment initiative into a dual kernel strategy, and the announcement may come as soon as this Wednesday. Any announcement will doubtless be delicately worded for political reasons and importantly, for conformity’s sake, and to shield independent software vendors from further confusion, differences will likely be hidden under a common shell of unifying application programming interfaces and a common desktop metaphor. Exactly whose desktop metaphor is being proposed remains unclear. Unix Labs has a metaphor of its own, following the Apple Macintosh model, written for the anticipated Unix Lite. The Santa Cruz Operation Inc, on the other hand, the company responsible for designing the Unix-based Open Desktop for ACE, has been pushing IXI Ltd’s X.desktop manager as part of the current ACE metaphor, much to the chagrin of ACE founder Compaq Computer Corp, which is known to prefer Hewlett-Packard Co’s Visual User Environment as a front-end. Sources familiar with the latest manoeuvres stressed that a single desktop metaphor was now essential, but said a combination of several technologies could be a sensible compromise that could stave off yet another round of in-fighting. Unix System V.4’s formal inclusion in ACE, some of whose Unix-only members perceive a threat from Microsoft Corp’s forthcoming New Technology despite the fact that Microsoft is a leading light in the consortium, is of particular importance to the so-called Apache group, that dissident band of ACEs that has rejected any other operating system from the very beginning and includes AT&T Computer Systems, NEC Corp, Ing C Olivetti & Co, Prime Computer Inc, Sony Microsystems Corp, Siemens-Nixdorf Informationssysteme AG, Pyramid Technology Corp and Tandem Computers Inc. Compaq, which has had its differences with Santa Cruz, may not make much of the realignment publicly, but it is believed to want a foot in both camps. The strength of Unix Labs’ hand, which includes System V.4’s market acceptance and the backing of Apache, has been heightened by its anticipated distribution alliance with Novell Inc for the desktop, a highly important resource no one else has been able to mus ter. And as part of the realignment, Unix Labs is also expected to join ACE.

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