With three former staffers from IBM’s Austin, Texas Unix development base on board, Dell Computer Corp is very serious indeed about its plunge into Unix, and is reviewing four RISC chips and considering doing its own multiprocessing adaptations to Unix. This emerged at a Silicon Valley Roundtable in San Francisco last week, reports Microbytes Daily. The session was fronted by Glenn Henry, former IBM Fellow who announced himself as one of the main developers of the System/38 and the RT, who introduced the other two IBMers, Charles Sauer, a specialist in Unix, and Dale Reynolds, a business systems architecture specialist. The company wants to do original work in multi tasking and multi-processing, graphical interfaces, and application-specific integrated circuits. The four RISCs under reveiw for Dell’s high-end system are the Motorola 88000, the Intel 80860, the Cypress version of the Sparc processor, and the MIPS R2000/R3000 processors – but Henry is worried that there are too many RISC chips to choose from and wants to be sure of adopting the one that has the biggest base of available applications. As well as working on an 80486 machine, Dell is also considering a parallel multiple 80386 architecture to retain compatibility with the existing software base on single-processor systems – but while that would need a parallel processing version of Unix, Henry claimed Dell has its own capabilities to do serious modifications to Unix. We’re capable of adapting Unix to multiprocessing, he said, adding that the company was considering the promised multi-processing version of the Mach kernel from Carnegie Mellon University, which is also wanted by NeXT Inc for a future multi-processor. Dell is also preparing a lap-top computer for launch when it reckons it has got the thing right. While 95% of its business is currently with 80386 and 80286 machines running MS-DOS, the diversifying Austin company is looking to get 20% of future business from Unix machines.
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