Heavy pressure from the US Federal government lies behind the tentative attempts that are now being made by the IBM-led Open Software Foundation and the AT&T-Sun Microsystems camp to heal the rift that threatens to throw the Unix world into disarray. US government users with large contracts in the pipeline are making it clear that they will delete the requirement for Unix in the specifications unless all parties are supporting a single standard. The clear implication of this is that AT&T is being whipped into line – and driven into the Open Software Foundation, because the leading protagonists in the Foundation, IBM and DEC, would be only too delighted to go back to the bad old days of proprietary operating systems, whereas AT&T has everything to lose. Following last week’s Uniforum/DC conference and trade show in Washington, which was a focus for government and commercial business in the US, speculation has been growing that a compromise is imminent (CI No 986). AT&T has hinted at putting the soul of Unix into an independent company, and headed paper with Unix Inc on it has already been printed (CI No 974). The US Federal information technology budget for 1988 has been estimated at $17,400m and individual contracts such as the US Treasury TMAC contract for automating the offices of the Internal Revenue Service, Secret Service, Customs and US Mint departments now specify standard, full function Unix. Vendors in both the AT&T and Foundation camps fear that two competing standards will not be acceptable to the procurement bodies. According to Dr Pamela Gray, /usr/group president and chairman of Sphinx Ltd, the mood is that the Foundation and AT&T need to be working together if we are to get to one standard, said Ms Gray. Users are now pushing on every front to get the standards work done. No-one will be hanging around – the tighter and firmer the standard is the better.
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