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September 20, 1990


By CBR Staff Writer

AT&T’s Unix System Laboratories has quietly set up a business unit focused on competing head-to-head with OS/2 and landing Unix squarely on the desktop. The Unix Desktop Technology Laboratory, headed by Don McGovern and staffed with what he called the best and brightest engineering and marketing people AT&T has to offer, is chartered to shrink Unix to fit on an archetypal $5,000 desktop computer. Their first desktop product is due the second half of next year. The repackaging job will mean reducing Unix memory requirements to 4Mb and disk space to 40Mb so it can easily outstrip OS/2, which currently needs 8Mb internal memory to function at its best. Desktop Unix would retain the multiuser/ multitasking/ virtual memory/windowing features of classic Unix, McGovern said, but some functionality, such as some networking/OSI support, would be stripped out into modules that could be added if the user wanted to go to full minicomputer Unix. Desktop Unix would also include a graphical install and graphical admin, features missing on classical Unix that are obviously needed to propel it into the mass market. The graphical model McGovern has in mind is the Macintosh and he said Unix System Labs is currently talking to some unidentified companies about a complete user interface environment for the desktop. How exactly Open Look or Motif fit in this scheme, if at all, is unclear. From his conversation McGovern seems to find neither of them all-embracing enough. Desktop Unix will also mean a pricing schedule different from what AT&T currently demands. However, details have not been worked out as yet, McGovern said. The challenge is paring Unix into desktop space while coming up with a system to which OEM customers can add value without changing the core or the interfaces, McGovern noted. The operation, which negotiated the recent Intel binary standard deal with Santa Cruz Operation, also has some shorter term initiatives in the works. It is currently completing the reference implementations for the Motorola, Sparc and MIPS chips and will be doing System V.4 OEM kits for each of those chips too. Desktop Unix, when it comes, will be available in OEM kit form for machines built around all of those chips, as well as for the Intel ones.

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