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February 5, 1987


By CBR Staff Writer

Sun Microsystems, Mountain View, California is professing itself unworried by the rush by a host of majors to support the X Window rival to its own NeWS windowing system for Unix machines. The company says that support by the great and the good of the workstation world for X will not affect its NeWS product since NeWS is not simply a windowing environment but a means of building windowing systems. NeWS, says Sun, actually supports X Windows to be run but the company will not stand up and be counted amongst those endorsing X as a standard because it reckons it to be too rigid. Sun’s message to customers is not to standardise on X but use NeWS, so that if X does emerge as a standard no software conversion costs will be incurred since NeWS will run X anyway. However, Sun, which set the Unix world alight with its Network File System, is much less well placed with NeWS, because its big selling point was that it supported the Postscript page description language – but Postscript originator Adobe Systems is one of the 11 backing X Windows. MIT is offering the specifications of X Window free of charge to would-be implementers: it is a network-transparent, portable windowing system that allows applications to work seamlessly across different architectures and is designed to work on different hardware. It is written in C and is implemented in Unix as a set of user mode processes. Porting the machine independent part of X-Windows to a new machine simply involves recompilation; building a new driver for a display system is more involved. The 11 want to extend X Windows with high level tools for developers designing environments and interfaces and persuade standards organisations to adopt X. Apart from Adobe, the other 10 companies backing X, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are Apollo Computer Inc, Applix Inc, Dana Computers Inc, Data General Corp, DEC, Hewlett-Packard Co, Masscomp, Siemens AG, Sony Corp, and Stellar Computer Inc. It is also believed that IBM may back X Window because developers of the Andrew System at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have been evaluating both X Windows and NeWS for the IBM RT Personal under the Andrew file system used on the RT, and although IBM was not prepared to stand up and be counted at MIT as an X Window supporter, it is is using the product.

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