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February 21, 1993

THREAT FROM NT FORCES NEW NEGOTIATIONS FOR UNIX ARMISTICE

By CBR Staff Writer

Microsoft Corp chief Bill Gates is doing more to unify the disputatious Unix community than any other single human being in the last five years. Fears that Windows NT will knock the stuffing out of a fragmented Unix industry have galvanized Unix International Inc to reinvent itself to become the catalyst for a unified Unix industry, reports today’s issue of our sister paper Unigram.X usysteir. If successful, its moves would also ensure Unix International’s continued existence. To arbitrate this unity, it has wrested the authority to pick technologies above the operating system away from Unix System Laboratories Inc and opened up the selection process to the industry at large. From now on, the companies on Unix International’s executive committee, currently home to the likes of Sun Microsystems Inc, NCR Corp, Unisys Corp and ICL Plc and some of the Japanese majors, will select the reference technologies for items such as networking, object orientation and multimedia. Unix International will no longer be just a requirements body or a marketing arm for Unix Labs. It is hoping its embrace of a wider field of players, coupled with a commitment to encourage competing implementations, will find enough favour with the Open Software Foundation and its sponsors, IBM Corp, Hewlett-Packard Co, Digital Equipment Corp, Hitachi Ltd, Siemens Nixdorf Informationssysteme and Groupe Bull SA, for them to lay down their guns. Apparently the response has been encouraging. Under the threat of NT the current mood of the industry seems to be for one requirements body, a consistent set of requirements and one open system. But negotiations could still take another six months and there are no guarantees. It remains to be seen what would happen to the Foundation and its precious OSF/1 operating system under these circumstances. Merger is of course a possibility and may even be desirable given the Foundation’s financial distress. Then too the Foundation and Unix International might split responsibilities, with Unix International handling requirements and technology selection and the Foundation doing development. Most recently, the idea of joint Requests for Technology has been winning friends. Unix International says that for its products to be selected as a reference technology a company will now have to promise snapshots for early access, follow established licensing and conformance guidelines which do not include pricing, and adhere to evolution requirements. Unix International will oversee conformance testing via its Architectural Review Board and more than likely brand everybody’s stuff. It claims its publication of the interface specifications, which include application binary interfaces, will encourage multiple competing technologies to come forward. All conformance testing will be handled by the reference company; Unix International insists internal procedures will eliminate any bias.

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