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Xtra, the process by which X/Open Co Ltd’s hopes to determine what users want from open systems, is being handed over to those very users in the shape of the X/Open User Council. This is the major change in this year’s Xtra process, which will also see the introduction of a European Xtra conference in Dusseldorf in November, continous workshops to refine requirements throughout the year and educational seminars run by X/Open and aimed at users. The Xtra Conference proper takes place in the autumn and will follow a summer of intensive market research by X/Open and a yet-to-be-named market research company. The research will try and determine users needs in terms of open systems and this year, for the first time, supply-side research will also be conducted to determine how vendors’ offerings measure up to the requirements that users have stated. X/Open’s chief marketing officer Alan Davies says that version 4 of the Portability Guide, also to be released in the autumn, will contain a lot of material on interoperability and how to integrate legacy systems. He admits the Xtra requirements-gathering process sometimes lags behind vendors’ product introductions but said he thought the new release of the Portability Guide would contain some elements that were ahead of current offerings in the area of interoperability. He says that in future, requirements are more likely to appear in regularly issued profiles – groups of standards that provide workable solutions, rather than in one package such as an X/Open Portabilibity Guide release 5, release 6 and so on.

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