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October 8, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

The Open Group is seeking a new mission in life following the departure of its high-profile CEO Joseph de Feo, which the standards body will announce today, along with significant restructuring of its operations. TOG, last resting place of the Open Software Foundation and home to the X/Open Co Ltd standards body which tests and brands things like Unix is down to around 80 staff from the more than 200 people it had when it was formed at the beginning of 1996. It’s going to focus on application interoperability and integration – including its nascent Open Browser initiative program (CI No 3,508) – and will present its board with a raison d’etre in the new year which is being formulated by long-serving CTO Mike Lambert. TOG’s board – IBM, HP, Siemens Sun, NCR, Compaq, Hitachi and Fujitsu – has installed former European boss Allen Brown as COO and acting president. It’s not known where De Feo and his henchmen have gone: he left to pursue other interests is the party line. TOG has closed down the greater part of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Research Institute development arm inherited from OSF after failing to find a buyer to take it on. The institute’s Grenoble, France-based operation which works on Java and has 24 staff working on over 20 contracts will be maintained. Paul Dale, the institute’s chief has left and David Lounsbury will move with a small team of eight working on quality of service projects for the US department of defense plus four other TOG staff into smaller premises. The six-strong Menlo Park office will be kept intact. De Feo, formerly IT supremo at Barclays Bank and a highly- influential supporter of open systems among the user community was brought in two years ago (CI No 2,857), presumably at great expense. He was specifically asked to reduce members’ costs by continuing the process of consolidation among the industry’s assorted vendor, user and technology consortia; raise the level of Microsoft Corp’s participation; and attract new members and big money from the demand side and consumer electronics sectors of the industry. By this yardstick De Feo largely failed as no group bar the X consortium was ever co-opted into the organization. He leaves TOG with fewer board members than when he started (there are eight and Microsoft is not among them). And he was hoodwinked by Microsoft’s ActiveX PR stunt. TOG lost a great deal of credibility when Microsoft, in a blaze of PR glory, gave TOG the task of standardizing ActiveX. Redmond failed to pay TOG the money and hired the guy in charge (Joe Maloney), while the project itself fizzled out. It won the reputation of being a standards for hire body. TOG argues that De Feo succeeded in cutting costs and providing the group with a strategic direction, the IT DialTone, which TOG says it will not abandon. TOG’s collaborative development program went by the wayside at least a year ago and it recently found that simply providing a forum for users and vendors to get together is much more fruitful. Witness the renewed Distributed Computing Environment activity: a public key infrastructure program was mooted in December 1997 and demo’d the following March. TOG, which makes money from its testing and branding activities and contract work says it plans to reformulate its technical and marketing plans. CTO Lambert will be out evangelizing TOG’s aims once again after a couple of years out of the limelight under De Feo’s regime. TOG says it’s financially secure for at least another year.

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