The byte ordering conflict has come back to haunt the open systems industry once again, this time it appears to have put a stop to the likelihood that Santa Cruz Operation Inc and Hewlett- Packard Co will be able to deliver a Next Generation Unix to the industry as a single high-volume, low-royalty operating system spanning the desktop to the data center, which is what their original agreement called for. While Santa Cruz’s operating system is being tailored for current and future generations of little-endian Intel Corp processors, Hewlett-Packard will have to maintain a big-endian version of its future Unix offering to support Precision Architecture RISC customers. Other potential licensees of the little-endian OEM customer product amongst the big-endian RISC community, including the MIPS and Sparc camps – AIX is big-endian too – would have to maintain their own implementations. Intel’s next-generation 64-bit Merced processor will run in either big- or little-endian modes, but not in both at the same time. As a result, Hewlett-Packard will have to maintain a little-endian Unix on its Merced systems if it wishes to take advantage of Santa Cruz applications without having software vendors re-write code. Alternatively, developers will be able to write new applications using a set of common development tools the two companies are now working on, and use a compile- time switch to generate separate big-endian and/or little-endian programs. The only way around it would be to develop technology that would enable users to access data stored in either big- or little- endian formats, or alternatively to move all of the Hewlett-Packard’s Precision Architecture customers to Intel.
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