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JAPAN GETS BITTEN BY THE UNIX BUG – OR IS IT JUST A STEPPING STONE TO TRON?

Despite the gathering commitment to the original Japanese Tron operating environment, 1987 is widely seen as the year when Unix really takes hold in Japan. A survey conducted by Denpa Computer earlier this year found top commentators describing the Unix market as a sleeping giant still, most notably because of the dearth of business applications (where have we heard that before?). However, they say, 1987 will bring two significant events. The first is the launch on the market and rapid take-up of 32-bit systems, in particular the workstations developed under the Sigma Project, described in detail in CI No 622. The Sigma operating system is based on Unix, and a total of 50 of the workstations were shipped to the project organisers by seven of the leading Japanese hardware manufacturers in the middle of February. The second is increasing use of networking software (including cheap imported software) and interfaces to create a complete Unix environment regardless of machine size. There are many Unix ap-plications already in use in the engineering field, but third party software houses writing business-oriented applications are waiting to see what the mainframe vendors do, and in particular how successful Hitachi is in selling its 2050 workstation series.

Control applications

Among the companies prominent in the Unix field, Software Research Associates, a pioneer in the commercial application of Unix using the Berkeley version running on the DEC VAX, has been using it since 1980. It has evolved software development methodologies and tools – and is the Japanese agent for several overseas packages, including the venerable British Filetab program. It uses Unix is all control applications and for the year just ending looks to report sales of about $66m. It has several unreleased Unix products, including a design tool that is a sort of electronic jotter pad for ideas. Image Partners is a software house specialising in business packages, and is committed to making Unix easier to use. It offers a set of Unix products called Image-Shell, Image-Report, Image-Base and so forth. System Network is the Japanese agent for Unify, and has created a Japanese version of the relational database; it claims to have sold 30,000 copies between 1982 and 1985, giving it top spot in the Unix database market with 52.5%.

Engineering, business

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Hitachi Ltd is planning to use Unix as the base of an integrated offering combining both engineering and business products. It offers HI-UX/M for the M-series mainframes, Uniris for the EWS7000 series, and HI-UX for the new OWS2050 series. The 2050 is aimed at both the data processing and office automation users and the Unix implementation is extended with more accessible user interfaces for multi-windowing, Japanese language and communications functions. It also supports artificial intelligence tools such as ES/Kernel, and runs Prolog. The 2050 can also be used as a server for a network of personal computers via RS232 interfaces. It is to be sold through 11 value-added-resellers, in is a novel approach to marketing in Japan, and the arrangement will later be extended to 100 resellers. Third party software houses will be developing applications for it and already 50 products for the 2050 and 40 for the 2020 have been registered. The machine with monochrome 720 by 520 screen, 1Mb CPU, mouse, Centronics parallel, five serial including two RS232 ports, and SASI disk controller is $2,700. With a 1,120 by 780 colour screen it comes it at $3,300. Fujitsu started shipping Unix products in September 1985. It offers Amdahl Corp’s UTS/M on its M series IBMulators, and sold 50 copies in the fourth quarter of 1986 alone. It offers UTS/S on its S3000 series, SX/A on the Panfacom PFUA-30 minicomputers, and SX/AU on the A-200UX Unix workstation due out this month. Fujitsu’s various Unix implementations include both AT&T System V and Berkeley BSD 4.2 features. Ricoh Co has been the Japanese agent for AT&T’s 3B Unix supermicro and minicomputer line May 1985, and in January this year started selling the low-end Starlan loca

l area network, and looks to sell 300 this year. It will be adding an internetworking gateway called ISN this summer. Rikei has been a long-time distributor of DEC VAX machines, but last year added the Multimax multi-processor machines from problematic Encore Computer Corp to its line. Nippon Masscomp has been marketing the Masscomp MC5000 series of scientific real-time Unix machines in Japan since last year, offering them with Communications Machinery Corp’s Ethernet Node Processor. Nippon Sun Microsystems is the 100% subsidiary of Sun Microsystems and was formed just over a year ago to sell the 68020-based Sun 3 stations through OEM customers, value-added resellers and distributors. The Suns, also the subject of a major OEM contract with Toshiba Corp, are used in Japan for software development, computer-aided design and manufacturing, and delivery of artificial intelligence systems. Japanese language processing will be available on Sun 3s this year.

Sign of the times

Mitsubishi Electric, in a firm sign of the times and indicator of the prevailing wind in Japan, last week launched three new 32-bit models in its long-standing Melcom 80G series of office computers – the 10G, 30G and 40G – and offered them with a new operating system, DPS10, which once again is based on Unix. It will be the preferred operating environment on future models of the family. Peripherals include a 300 lpm Kanji printer, and the machines, on five-year contracts, range in price from $680 a month to $2,600 a month. Mitsubishi looks to sell 75,000 over three years. Ascii Corp, Microsoft’s former Japanese partner and now a $100m a year company, is also deeply involved in Unix, in particular development of the Kanji version. It started offering Kanji Unix BSD in 1984 and sold 50 copies in 1986. It started selling the Informix relational database in 1985 and has sold 2,000 copies. Ascii is pushing Sun’s Network File System and is wavering over whether to pick X Window or NeWS for windowing. But Ascii sees Unix merely as a stopgap on the way to the all-Japanese Tron operating system, which now comes in a multitude of applications-specific variants – B-Tron for the office, C-Tron for communications, E-Tron for education, I-Tron for industrial automation, D-Tron for applications development…


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CBR Staff Writer

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