Like in a game of pass the parcel, Taligent Inc takes a bit more of the wrapping off its object-oriented Pink environment with every call. Last week, vice-president of marketing Stratton Sclavos revealed new details of the company’s product release plans, and provided a fuller picture of the architecture itself. Pink – a naming process is still under way, though code-names abound – will eventually be delivered as three separate product components. The application environment will be around in software development kit form – release 1.0 of two beta software development kits planned – from springtime next year. The company is shooting for beta releases of the other components a development system and object services (the Mach-based system software) – towards the end of 1994, with general 1.0 releases of all three modules due between nine and 12 months thereafter. Slated to appear in versions for PowerPC and Intel Corp hardware, and on PowerOpen, AIX and OS/2 operating systems that’s probably six implementations already – the IBM Corp-Apple Computer Inc effort still promises other volume versions, including other Unix variants and on other CPUs.
The range of answers it supplied to the question suggest Taligent is still figuring out whether to head for Windows NT or Chicago as a Microsoft Corp environment for Pink, if indeed it goes with a Microsoft version at all – not surprising given the amount of work it still has to do on a system that is currently years rather than months away. Despite bullish claims of an NT version by IBM senior vice-president of strategy and devlopment James Cannavino, Sclavos says Taligent is only doing investigative work with Microsoft. Meanwhile, Taligent, which according to Sclavos, is coming in under budget in relation to what was first put into the venture, and ahead of schedule, is still scouting for sugar daddies, and has broadened its quest to Japan, and more recently Europe too. Although it has sought other investors since its formation in March 1992, so far it has none. The well-known deal to bring Hewlett-Packard Co in as a partner earlier this year never got inked. The Taligent application environment includes a set of object-oriented frameworks that Stratton Sclavos claims have richer functionality than rival offerings including support for two-dimensional and three-dimensional graphics and photorealistic imaging: Renderman on steroids. The frameworks provide basic utilities and building blocks, but can be customised by developers. The environment will ship with 100 frameworks, Sclavos says, the user interface, multimedia, imaging, device drivers, printing, networking and file system. The development system, built out of frameworks, can be used for browsing, linking and code navigation, and as a means of customising and extending the frameworks themselves for tailored programs that are then compiled for use. The frameworks themselves are collections or bundles of class libraries objects that each have specific functions. Each has an associated client application programming interface, which is used to subclass the library, and a framework programming interface that provides the customisation facilities. Application code calls the framework through the client application interface.
By William Fellows
Sclavos says a developer can customise as many or as few frameworks as he or she requires without encountering any interoperability problems. In any case frameworks in the application environment should be able to account for at least 80% of any program’s functional requirement – only the value added has to be worked on. What it saves, argues Sclavos – and this is a cornerstone of the philosophy of object paradigms – is the need to write hundreds of thousands of lines of code for each new application. He says Taligent engineers have built client-server applications with just tens of line of code, which in turn inherit the 750,000 or so in the application environment. The object services layer, the Mach 3.0-based microkernel operating system Taligent is working on wit
h IBM, provides message-passing, synchronisation services, low-level memory, and bus and driver support. Although all three components of Pink will be individually portable, the microkernel is the native foundation for it, and is optimised for it. Pink is described as a fine-grain system written in C++. Sclavos says the firm hasn’t yet decided whether it’ll make use of IDL – the Object Management Group’s Interface Definition Language for enabling objects to be recognised under different object environments – as it believes that while it is fine for cross-environment purposes, the Sun Microsystems Inc-developed language isn’t so good for fine-grain homogeneous object systems. Pink will support the Object Management Group’s Corba, the Open Software Foundation’s Distributed Computing Environment, Apple’s OpenDoc and Microsoft Object Linking & Embedding. However, Taligent remains shy of revealing its plan, if any, to address the Object Group’s request for specifications for interoperability technology for use in the next-generation Corba 2.0 request broker architecture. Sun together with new partner NeXT Computer Inc, and now Digital Equipment Corp and Microsoft – have already made their plays. Sun, Hewlett-Packard Co and IBM were originally thought to be looking at a way of submitting a joint proposal based on their common static binding approach to passing objects across distributed heterogeneous environments. The DEC and Microsoft specification uses alternative, dynamic techniques. Sclavos was unable to say whether Taligent will offer its own submission, join another, or make the Object Group’s deadline of today at all. Pink, says Sclavos, has come a long way from the way it was originally conceived. It is not a desktop operating system replacement, rather a client-server environment with separate product pieces – more of a super-client rather than a server per se, he argues. The idea of creating a new Mac-type environment soon went away when the fledgling venture went off and talked to potential customers about graphical user interfaces and objects. Taligent was showing the latest incarnation of Pink under non-disclosure at Comdex a couple of weeks ago and ran the stuff – as an application, not a new technology demonstration – past 60 independent software vendors and 30 corporate customers (plus press and analysts that signed the don’t-tell-a-soul document). Sclavos claims that 100 independent software vendors and 100 corporates are using early releases of the product, which comes with 32 applications, most created by a four-person team at Taligent.
The applications – four supplied by unidentified independent software vendors – have been created to demonstrate Pink’s functionality in areas like two-way, real-time operations, showing multiple data line windows concurrently and international transliteration (the direct translation of the words on the screen into a foreign language). The developers used fewer than 10,000 lines of new code in total, says Sclavos, picking up whatever else was required from the frameworks. Don’t get the wrong idea though, Taligent is not, and won’t ever be in the applications business, he says. In addition, Pink will run 32-bit Unix, Windows and Macintosh applications and users will be able to work with tools from their native operating systems. The technology may be great, but Sclavos’s main problem still appears to lie in selling a system that won’t be out until the middle of 1995 at the earliest. Following its agreement with NeXT, Sun can now offer a working object-oriented environment, NeXTstep, that’s been out in the market since 1989, and Microsoft’s Cairo will be available by that timeframe too.