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October 12, 1995


By CBR Staff Writer

As reported (CI No 2,650), the PowerOpen Association, which was charged with specifying and maintaining an open, Unix-based operating system for the PowerPC processor, is facing closure. President Tom Mace said the organisation just isn’t getting enough dollars in to keep going in its existing form and is reducing the number of staff and scaling down operations substantially. A decision on whether to wind up the whole operation will be taken within the next couple of months, said Mace. Frankly, the signs don’t look good for PowerOpen. The association’s standard application programming interfaces and application binary interfaces are based closely on IBM Corp’s AIX interfaces. So closely, in fact, that all of the Association members apart from Harris Corp, ended up simply licensing AIX from IBM to run on their machines and the association became essentially an AIX talking shop. It intended to make money by certifying applications and hardware as being PowerOpen compliant, but it was never clear why companies should pay to show they conformed to the association’s specifications, rather than simply stating that they ran AIX. To help the association into its coffin, IBM recently announced its own AIX talking shop; the AIX Multiple Vendor Program’s remit reads like a clone of the original PowerOpen charter: The founding principle of AIX MVP is to ensure that AIX is AIX, regardless of the system on which it is provided – whether from IBM or from other (OEM customers). Under the programme, an OEM system that carries the AIX trade mark will have been required to complete a set of certification tests with the operating system running on the OEM vendor’s hardware system to demonstrate compliance with a rigorous AIX definition, said IBM. Even if the death of the PowerOpen Association is not a fait accompli, it is difficult to see what its role would be in the post AIX MVP-world. Indeed, Mace said the association’s development and test technology will probably end up with the Multiple Vendor Programme if his organisation disappears. IBM also said it intends to make future releases of AIX more modular, to help OEM customers do their stuff. The new programme received immediate support from PowerOpen stalwarts Bull Information Systems and Motorola Inc. Database manufacturer Sybase Inc also lent support.

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