Hewlett Packard Co and Microsoft Corp have now announced the first stage in their efforts to promote the Presentation Manager interface as common graphical front end to both Unix and OS/2 personal computer systems. The announcement, at Comdex in Las Vegas, revealed Hewlett’s Common X Interface, which aims to give Unix systems the same appearance and behaviour as personal computers running MS-DOS with Microsoft Windows, and MS-OS/2 with Presentation Manager. Common X Interface, which Hewlett says was a direct response to the Open Software Foundation’s search for a user interface, is also available in a three dimensional version that uses the Palo Alto minimaker’s proprietary Widget set. Common X source code will be offered on licence, and although most of the Common X programming components can be bought now, from the end user point of view the system will not really be viable until the middle of next year, when the window manager needed to run the applications becomes available. Next stage is the long-awaited Presentation Manager/X, an extension of Common X which has application program interfaces consistent with MS OS/2 Presentation Manager and will enable developers to transfer applications more easily between OS/2 and Unix systems. However, the task may not be easy. X/Open Ltd evaluated the possibility of using Presentation Manager as its standard interface earlier this year, and reported severe performance and technical difficulties. And there is no indication yet that IBM will support Presentation Manager for Unix: last month it signed up the NextStep interface from Steve Jobs’ Next Inc as the interface for its AIX-based systems. Microsoft founder Bill Gates was quoted in Computer Systems News recently as saying that he might try to convince IBM to have a second user interface to AIX. Meanwhile, the Open Software Foundation has reportedly whittled down its choice of user interfaces to 12 (phew!), and will be choosing the winning product or products by the end of this year, with a full rationale by January 13. The next user interface meeting is scheduled to be held in Boston on December 7 and 8.