One effect of Dr Robb Wilmot’s speech to the X/Open Co Xtra conference in Rome a couple of weeks ago was a seemingly spur-of-the-moment invitation issued to Microsoft Corp to submit its Windows specifications to the standards body’s process, a proposal that has not drawn much enthusiasm out of Redmond, Washington (CI No 2,321). The […]
One effect of Dr Robb Wilmot’s speech to the X/Open Co Xtra conference in Rome a couple of weeks ago was a seemingly spur-of-the-moment invitation issued to Microsoft Corp to submit its Windows specifications to the standards body’s process, a proposal that has not drawn much enthusiasm out of Redmond, Washington (CI No 2,321). The invitation was X/Open’s response to Wilmot’s critique of its first 10 years, in which he challenged X/Open’s claim to represent the industry at a time when Microsoft and the non-Unix businesses of Novell Inc weren’t part of its process. Spending the next decade sorting out Unix is exactly what some folks would like X/Open to do… but is this delivering real value was Wilmot’s next musing. Although a recent groundswell of opinion suggests X/Open is a more suitable vehicle for sorting out Unix matters in the future than consortia or industry bodies such as a NewOrg would be, Wilmot’s fear is nevertheless recognised. If industry sources are to be believed – and X/Open was unavailable to comment last week there are indications that it might be considering ways to deal with the issue head on. X/Open has been providing an umbrella for – and become enmeshed in – the affairs of the supply side of the industry, making relations with users and their wishes ostensibly X/Open’s raison d’etre – obviously difficult. A user-oriented standards body isn’t really the place to settle industry issues, and that is evident in the difficulty that X/Open has in trying to resolve these kinds of disputes. One insider believes that X/Open as is can’t do all of the supply side stuff. It should, he argues, form a sub-division, separate from the main body of X/Open as such, which would be a better solution and offer more safeguards and enforceable processes than a large NewOrg, for example. Supply-side disagreements usually result from each company wanting to promote its own technology. They can’t be sorted out effectively by consortia, which can do development, but can’t compromise (witness the weekly falling out between the COSE Common Open Software Environment companies). Even X/Open, if presented with early specifications of technology, is in the difficult position of having to broker compromises. There are huge profits to be made from the systems software business and plenty of companies are seeking a share: it is for this reason that the Unix technology bunfights must stop, says our source. If a discrete subdivision of X/Open could be created to resolve Unix issues efficiently and economically, then new divisions could be created for other difficult sectors too, he argues. Wilmot argued that X/Open should move quickly to represent the rest of the industry beyond Unix, before that world leaves X/Open behind. Perhaps this, insiders suggest, could be a way of achieving it.