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February 23, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

But there is trouble to be found in the Unix paradise, and the grumbling over the Sun/AT&T agreement to develop a merged Berkeley/System V operating system – now dubbed System V, Release 4.0 – was just about inescapable at Uniforum, with most in the Hamilton Group of 30 vendors having something to say about it but few having much in the way of positive alternative suggestions and fewer still looking as if they could actually do anything about it. The complaints were probably best summed up by Lew Platt, Hewlett-Packard executive vice-president who said that HP is very concerned about the position of AT&T on the future development of Unix standards, particularly in regard to the possible dependency on a proprietary chip (HP, of course, is a direct competitor to Sun in the workstation market and having made a huge investment in RISC development is eyeing the likely success of Sun’s SPARC with considerable trepidation). The moans spurred AT&T to hold a meeting with the group to give a fuller description of the development, with the result that some of the vendors’ fears seemed to have been quietened by the end of the exhibition: however it appeared that the group won few if any significant concessions. Sun meanwhile used everyone from chief executive Scott McNealy to research and development guru Bill Joy to claim that the company would derive no unfair product advantages from the venture because Sun would have to wait until it received the System V.4 source from AT&T before it could port it to its own processor. Since Joy is due to head the closed development team at Menlo Park, California, that statement seems even harder to believe – at the very least Sun developers are likely to have intimate knowledge of the internals of the system long before it reaches the market. Sun’s continuing success prompted not only serious but also humorous stabs from the competition: many attendees sported cryptic buttons – badges that either adapted the US cigarette-packet health warning to read The Surgeon General has determined that Sun is hazardous to your health or read No NeWS is good NeWS.

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