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May 25, 1994


By CBR Staff Writer

IBM Corp will be showing what there is of the native implementation of Sun Microsystems Inc’s of Solaris on its Power Personal Systems Division’s PowerPC 601 desktop at Comdex this week. The Power Personal division doesn’t have its own show floorspace but will hitch a ride with the IBM Microelectronics people. With the Solaris kernel now up and running on a PowerPC Reference Platform-compliant 66MHz machine, IBM says SunSoft Inc engineers in Los Angeles are ahead of schedule on the implementation. The Solaris file system, communications, Open Look and Common Desktop Environment have yet to make the transition. Details of the the expected IBM-SunSoft OEM agreement – such as who owns the resulting source code – are still hung up with lawyers however, and the two are shy of discussing the business arrangements until the contract is inked. Allow for the fact that there are two different organisations within IBM and at least two others outside concerned, IBM advises. The deal is not necessarily specific to the Power Personal crowd either, rather it’s bound to the architecture – 601, 603 and 604 variants are envisaged under the agreement. Indeed the technology could even be made available on other IBM PREP-compliant machines (currently there are none apart from the Power Personals, and those are only cardboard replicas), though it’s hard to envisage the RS/6000 division, even if it had PREP-compliant machines, being able to by-pass Donna Van Fleet’s AIX operation for Solaris.

Not the game plan The two will do joint marketing, service and support, and plan an independent software vendor campaign to get Solaris 2.x and x86 applications up on Solaris for PowerPC. SunSoft, it is understood, will offer the same source code to other PowerPC system-builders and is keen to synchronise the release with its next versions of Solaris Sparc and x86. Beta versions are expected in the fourth quarter with the start of an independent software vendor campaign – general availability is still seen for the first half of 1995. When these PCI-based Power Personals will be released and just what they will run on Day One isn’t IBM’s favourite topic of conversation. The general idea is to sell the systems pre-loaded and to offer common service and support for all the operating systems. We’ve already seen the hardware – the three prospective boxes were on show at UniForum back in March. We know AIX, OS/2, Workplace OS, Taligent, Windows, Windows NT and Solaris are due and that Santa Cruz Operation Inc Unix, possibly NeXTstep and others may follow too (not all from the outset of course). The problem is political. Assuming that reports that OS/2 won’t make it to PowerPC until the first quarter of next year are correct, and that a Windows NT conversion will be done sooner, the struggle is between the True Bluers that would wait for OS/2 before launching and those that want to get going, silence the growing scepticism and press on with what’s available sooner. The party line is that the boxes will launch once a critical mass – three or four – of the five main operating systems are available; by year-end, it believes. IBM admits it could easily announce Power Personal AIX systems now if it wanted to get something out immediately, but that is not the game plan.

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