Santa Cruz Operation Inc’s new NC/OS Network Computer operating system announced last week (CI No 2,978) and being shown at the SCO Forum this week, is a small footprint version of Unix that it previously sold as its environment for point-of-sale systems, but with Netscape Communications Corp Navigator, a TCP/IP stack and some networking glue on top. Crucially, it runs on standard Intel Corp processors, from an 80386 up. The operating system itself takes up 1.45Mb, and with Navigator added, Santa Cruz reckons the whole thing requires no more than 8Mb. Scott McGregor, Santa Cruz’s senior vice-president for product marketing, said the Navigator cache could either be held on a very small hard disk or in Flash memory. The operating system and browser can be held in ROM, he said. Santa Cruz apparently took just 45 days from concept to having the thing ready, hardly surprising as the kernel was already written and being used. The company is currently hawking it round to any of its existing OEM customers that might be interested in building Network Computers. They apparently went goo-goo when they were shown it, according to vice-president for the Internet, Jeff Ait. Two are said to be ready to go with some sort of device, while a round eight others are currently developing products, according to Ait. Other companies are being shown the operating system, including some in Taiwan and elsewhere in the Far East, including Tatung Co Ltd and Acer Inc, as well as some large US personal computer manufacturers, none of which Santa Cruz would reveal. One of them was said to be very, very nervous about word getting out that it was looking to build a Network Computer. HDS Network Systems Inc, which claimed to be the first company anywhere with a Network Computer when it launched one back in June is just about to start talking to Santa Cruz about possibly using the NC/OS, despite having its own Posix-compatible microkernel, which only takes up 300Kb, including Spyglass Inc’ s Web browser, as part of its Universal Client environment. The NC/OS will appear in a variety of embedded systems in the near future according to McGregor – apart from point of sale systems – including handheld devices. McGregor said SunSoft Inc’s Java OS can’t compete at the moment, as it doesn’t have any networking or systems management capabilities yet. Things that were stripped out of Unix to make it fit in such a small space include symmetric multiprocessing support and large file management support. Santa Cruz is hosting a Network Computer pavilion at the Forum this week, where numerous vendors will be showing their wares. As we went to press, the list comprised Sun Microsystems Inc, Apple Computer Inc, HDS, SunRiver Corp, Diba Inc, NetChannel Inc, Unisys Corp, Idea Corp, Akai Electric Co, ViewCall America Inc, Wyse Technology Inc and Maxspeed Corp.
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