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Technology / AI and automation


Compagnie des Machines Bull SA and IBM Corp came together in Paris this week to put the finishing touches to their collaborations, announcing successful conclusion of specific contracts that comprise the far-reaching open-systems technology and associated manufacturing alliance announced on January 28. Bull’s decision to adopt IBM’s Power and PowerPC RISC architectures is reckoned to provide a clear direction for future technology development and will lead to the increased availability of application software from independent suppliers, the partners hope. The specific accords, which range from five to 10 years in duration, encompass high-end, open-systems products based on the IBM RISC; networking and interoperability; specific operational and purchasing agreements; technology co-operation and licensing; manufacturing; and portable personal computers from Zenith Data Systems. The first research and development projects under the agreement have already begun and are operating on target and on time, the partners say – as reported at the time, in April, Bull announced its DPX/20 series of scalable Unix workstations and servers using the IBM RISC, and products are being shipped. On the financial side, IBM gets a 5.68% stake in Compagnie des Machines Bull for its $100m investment, valuing the whole company at $1,760m. Bull is licensed to develop and build products based on IBM technologies such as the RISC architectures and the AIX Unix operating system, as well as the right to develop products based on research generated at the Somerset Design Centre in Austin, Texas, where Apple Computer Inc and Motorola Inc are also partners. The design centre is the focal point of design and development efforts for the PowerPC family of single-chip RISC microprocessors. Bull will lead co-operative development projects for a range of symmetrical multiprocessing systems based on its multiprocessing expertise. Bull is licensed to manufacture at its facilities systems based on IBM RISC System/6000 architectures, and related circuit boards and sub-assemblies, which can be used for licensed Bull products. Bull is allowed to market current and future IBM RISC-based products under its own brand and will independently add its own content and value. And Zenith will provide IBM with customised portable personal computers for inclusion in the IBM product line. The parties are also defining potential new relationships in the area of portable personal computer development based on the Zenith technology. Another agreement covers initial projects in the area of networking and interoperability, principally software in the areas of Open Systems Interconnection and SNA, as well as the Distributed Computing Environment of the Open Software Foundati on, of which Bull and IBM are both sponsors. Bull will also manufacture and sell to IBM circuit boards that meet IBM’s specifications. The agreements anti cipate deliveries starting in volume later this year, and IBM will also make available low-end disks for Bull mid-range systems and Zenith microcomputers.

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