By this time next year, SunSoft Inc wants the chiefs of the Unix tribes, Unix Systems Laboratories Inc’s Roel Pieper, Santa Cruz Operation Inc’s Doug Michels, and its own Ed Zander, to have declared how each of them will support and implement a common definition of Unix in their respective desktop operating systems. As reported […]
By this time next year, SunSoft Inc wants the chiefs of the Unix tribes, Unix Systems Laboratories Inc’s Roel Pieper, Santa Cruz Operation Inc’s Doug Michels, and its own Ed Zander, to have declared how each of them will support and implement a common definition of Unix in their respective desktop operating systems. As reported (CI No 2,063), the definition – a low-level application binary interface – will be owned by Unix International Inc and is to be published in the next edition of the Unix International RoadMap, due at the forthcoming Unix International members meeting in February. Unix International and the suppliers hope such an interface will enable independent software vendors to develop one binary version of an application that will, as far as is possible, run unchanged across shrink-wrapped desktop Unix products like Solaris, Unix System V.4.2, UnixWare and Open Desktop. With Microsoft Corp’s Windows NT effort gathering steam, SunSoft’s director of business development and strategic planning, Michael Sears, believes a resolution of the desktop compatibility issue must happen in 1993: it is doable in nine to 12 months. Although System V.4 ironed out many differences in the various Unix implementations, the problem of incompatible interfaces has precluded a satisfactory resolution of the issue. Unix Labs and SunSoft identified areas of difference in their desktops while beta testing the environments earlier this year. Object-level interface
Most differences have been addressed in an object-level interface definition that takes bits from System V.4.2 and Solaris, which will form the basis of the Unix International binary interface. It will specify that the look and feel of a graphical user interface must, for example, include a common set of widgets, or at the very least, the ability to support them. Unix Labs and SunSoft have spent the last few months working out the commercial implications of the binary interface on delivery schedules and compatibility issues. With time short, SunSoft, Unix International and Unix Labs technical teams are working to nail down outstanding differences: the accompanying lobbying campaigns do at least bear testament to their efforts. The success of these individual desires notwithstanding, general belief is that some form of compromise is most likely. Unix International says it will ensure issues not resolved don’t cause major problems for indepen software vendors – they’ll be addressed by advanced technology programmes and a new set of relationships with the suppliers. Unix International expects a fully-converged binary interface to result over time, which will eventually include some form of requirement for a common developmenmt environment. The UK Defence Research Agency’s Ten15 Architecture Neutral Distribution Format technology will also be incorporated: Unix International says it has been working closely with the UK military researchers for the last six months on proposals. Other binary interfaces for multiprocessing and security will follow soon after by which time Unix International expects Santa Cruz to join the party. Quietly, Unix International is also expected to begin relationships with firms other than Unix Labs for technology development on its behalf. Not, says Unix International, to kowtow to any kinds of preconditions SunSoft wants the Unix club to meet for the firm to close on the desktop issue, but simply because Unix Labs does not have resources to do all the development work coming down the line. SunSoft argues Unix International needs to move away from Unix Labs: Sears says many Unix International members want that to happen, but denies SunSoft is holding Unix International hostage.