Digital Equipment Corp last week reversed a decision of a few weeks standing not to put OSF/1 on future MIPS Computer Systems Inc R-series RISC machines (CI No 1,940) and reverted to an earlier strategy that will see it go onto the MIPStation. The flip-flop, outlined in the first of a series of three press […]
Digital Equipment Corp last week reversed a decision of a few weeks standing not to put OSF/1 on future MIPS Computer Systems Inc R-series RISC machines (CI No 1,940) and reverted to an earlier strategy that will see it go onto the MIPStation. The flip-flop, outlined in the first of a series of three press conferences last Wednesday, turned far messier than it needed to be due largely to DEC’s inability to admit that it had flip-flopped to begin with. Instead, DEC’s Unix-based Software & Systems Marketing & Planning Group manager Matt Kochen and Laurie Buller from the product management group staff attempted to pin responsibility for what they termed the confusion in the marketplace over DEC’s actual position on misguided press reports – an allegation stoutly and unanimously resisted by senior members of the US press corps and analysts that have been close to the story. Effectively they charged DEC with terminological inexactitude. DEC for its part disassociated itself from statements made by DEC vice-president of software engineering David Stone as well as its own public relations people that DEC had decided not to pursue the OSF/1 path for MIPS. It labelled them as personal opinion and suggested that in future the press question everything said at any time by DEC staff, no matter how high ranking, to assure themselves they are getting the company line. Despite his contention that DEC’s strategy had never changed, Kochen also said DEC’s Product Strategy Committee, chaired by founder Ken Olsen, had decided last week to stick with the MIPS-OSF/1 policy. Kochen cited DEC’s need, under current financial conditions, to look at all significant investments as the reason for the review. Kochen maintained that DEC had been taking a worldwide census of hundreds of customers recently to ascertain whether OSF/1-on-MIPS was a viable policy. Overwhelmingly they voted in favour, he said, though he could not quantify the demand. It is believed the technique DEC used, though Kochen did not say, was largely an Internet opinion poll and that DEC’s sales force, on hearing the no-OSF/1 decision, had begged their customers to complain. It is also believed that the no-OSF/1 decision, made in the midst of the recent flurry of reorganisations that have left DEC somewhat muddled, was made – perhaps unilaterally – by Stone whose heart apparently belongs to Alpha, and that its reversal is something of an internally staged palace revolt. However, fora such as Computerworld have seen a small firestorm of user complaints in their pages over the proposed return to an Ultrix migration path. Reporters suggested that a trial balloon had backfired on DEC, leaving customers feeling whipsawed and cynical. Kochen himself mentioned that orders had frozen and users themselves calculated that DEC had lost millions of dollars along with credibility and goodwill. With the industry hours away from its first formal truce since the Unix wars began (CI No 1,942), DEC returned to the rhetoric that marked the outbreak of hostilities. Kochen and crew maintained that DEC customers were excited about OSF/1 because of its superior technology and key features, the prospect of Distributed Computing Environment and Distributed Management Environment and the more open process by which the Open Software Foundation found its technology. They again rejected any possibility of DEC ever going to System V.4 – no requests for it, they said, which will raise an eyebrow or two if, as forecast, DEC endorses Unix System V.4.2 Destiny on the Alpha RISC – maintaining that OSF/1’s future compliance with System V.4 would suffice, and calling OSF/1 the long-awaited Unix rewrite. One observer, however, suggested that the users perhaps felt that anything would be better than Ultrix, which DEC will continue to support on the R4000.