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May 16, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

Last minute efforts to avert a catastrophic schism in the Unix world were continuing right up to the end of last week, but all the signs yesterday were that AT&T had failed to bow to pressure from the surviving members of the Hamilton Group of Unix dissidents to provide full and equal access to the latest Unix developments. Accordingly, seven major companies led by IBM will go almost certainly today go ahead with their plan to unveil a vendor-independent Unix standards strategy to counter the AT&T Sun Microsystems alliance, confirming persistent rumours over the last few weeks (CI No 924). The plans reportedly involve creation of an Open Systems Foundation to be established in northern California to which member companies will each contribute fees of up to $4.5m, staffed by 10 software development staff from each of the founders. According to the New York Times, the starting point will be one of IBM’s various implementations of Unix – AIX, presumably. And, as we forecast on Thursday (CI No 927), IBM, DEC, Hewlett-Packard and IBM have gained some European backing, from Nixdorf, Siemens and Honeywell-Bull. The worldwide conference, with a satellite link up between New York, Atlanta and Geneva, is expected to reveal that future Unix implementations from the group will maintain compatibil ity with both the IEEE Posix porta ble Unix standard and X/Open’s Common Applications Environment, but will veer away from AT&T-Sun developments on official Unix. If AT&T is displaced as the cen trepin of Unix standards efforts, X/Open could begin to play a more important role in future develop ments – and IBM is understood to have now sent in its application to become an X/Open member. X/Open Chairman Geoff Morris said he saw the Unix breakaway group as a posi tive move. The standards focus has moved from the operating system to a higher level: the Common Appl ications Environment and Posix cre ate a very stabilising base plate, and below that suppliers can innov ate like hell. The move, he sugg ested, had been made as a direct response to market demand for vend or independence, strong enough for people to stop trying to be techni cally different and collaborate.

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