The X/Open extravaganza at the end of last month was an occasion that both delighted and depressed (CI No 631). The Demonstration of Portability, hosted by the EEC Commission in Luxembourg proved a success in that 11 major manufacturers showed that they were prepared to spend a great deal of time and money to let the world know that they were comitted to the X/Open common applications environment. Despite the professional presentation, however, what we saw did not show how a single application package can easily run on hardware systems supplied by all 11 members of the X/Open group; as the X/Open press release supplied for the occasion suggested it should. The demonstration proved that, with a lot of behind-the-scenes work, 10 computers systems could be tuned to run a modified version of a standard package. Of the 10 machines presented, half needed modifications; a couple are not yet X/Open-conformant and several do not come with floppy disk drives. This was not the impression given at the demonstration or during the associated question-and-answer session, but in fairness to the members they are not committed to producing compliant machines until the third quarter of this year. Access Technology’s 20/20 spreadsheet, which incidentally already runs on a wide variety of equipment, was ported to the offerings of AT&T/Olivetti, Bull, DEC, Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard, ICL, Nixdorf, Philips, Siemens, and Unisys. AT&T/Olivetti provided a standard 3B2 for the occasion; Bull had a large configuration of the SPS 7; the MicroVAX II running Ultrix from DEC required minor changes; Ericsson produced a prototype system based on the Sun Microsystems’ Sun 2 workstation; Hewlett-Packard had a standard HP9000 on show; ICL had a 68020-based Clan 4; Nixdorf used the Targon 31; the Philips P9000 launch a week before the demonstration provided it with a suitable offering; Siemens demonstrated the PC MX2; and Unisys wheeled out the 5000/50 machine. The preparation for the event was carried out by Ace of Amsterdam, technical advisors to the X/Open group, over a period of three months. Ace took one of the versions of 20/20 currently available on the market and produced another set of source code that was X/Open conformant. This set of source code for 20/20 is now X/Open property and not available from Access.
Exempt from competition policy
Despite some cynicism the event was a success in that it attracted over 100 journalists and over 200 users, independent software vendors and uninvolved staff from the X/Open member companies. Thus in terms of getting the X/Open message across and drumming up support the two-day event deserved resounding applause. The hosts, the EEC Commission, gave a vote of confidence to the X/Open efforts by exempting the group from the Community’s Competition Policy. The Commission is responsible for ensuring that dominant positions within the EEC are not abused: as seven of the X/Open member companies are the largest computer manufacturers in Europe, this banding together could be seen as a possible cause for concern but the Commission has decided that the group encourages competition within a harmonious environment. The Commission’s representative also said that promoting Unix portability would give European resellers with good ideas an open market to work for. Buying Unix workstations at the rate of 1,000 per year makes the Commission an interested party, it says that its relationship with X/Open has made it possible to implement office automation systems at the lowest cost per workstation. The Commission added that it supported the initiative to give the X/Open Portability Guide official recognition as an international standard but concluded that it hoped that the growing size of the organisation will not slow down the momentum. The forming of X/Open Ltd should help solve any of these problems.
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