IBM Corp’s Power Personal Systems division, which has been charged with doing whatever it can to make its PowerPC machines successful, was hoping to close an OEM deal with SunSoft Inc on Good Friday for a PowerPC version of Solaris for its Peripheral Component Interconnect systems, which are due in the second half of this […]
IBM Corp’s Power Personal Systems division, which has been charged with doing whatever it can to make its PowerPC machines successful, was hoping to close an OEM deal with SunSoft Inc on Good Friday for a PowerPC version of Solaris for its Peripheral Component Interconnect systems, which are due in the second half of this year. However the deal, which IBM had wanted to announce at SunSoft’s developers conference in San Francisco last week, is hung up with the lawyers, who are negotiating terms for the source code and redistribution rights that IBM requires. IBM, which has been touting Solaris-on-PowerPC to a variety of firms, Data General Corp among them, expects the deal to be closed imminently, although the implementation is not yet complete. Beta test versions are expected in the fourth quarter, with general availability seen for the beginning of 1995. SunSoft has moved the Solaris kernel across to the 601 RISC – indeed, it showed a very early mock-up of the system as long ago as Comdex.
Eleven differences to be resolved
The file system and other components have yet to make the leap. In SunSoft’s defence, given that not all of PowerPC’s application binary interfaces are clearly defined, it can legitimately plead that it is still trying to hit a moving target. More powerful however, is its desire to synchronise the PowerPC release with the next revision of Solaris for Sparc and iAPX-86 as a single Unix source tree for three architectures. In any case, it won’t be able to plead a moving target for too much longer, according to IBM. Most industry sources agree that Apple Computer Inc will accept the PowerPC Reference Platform – it has already bowed to Peripheral Component Interconnect bus – once 11 outstanding differences are resolved. Most of those are Macintosh-specific issues which will be tricky, though not impossible, to overcome, such as how to work around the frame buffers Mac software uses, which aren’t part of the PReP. And Apple staffers still voice open discontent with PReP. They point to PReP’s lack of support for high-speed input-output, and for the advanced audio, graphics and video capabilities that have made the Macintosh so popu-lar. IBM meanwhile, is confident that the engineering teams will soon be agreed on a compromise that will involve trade-offs on both sides. Things such as disk-handling and keyboard issues in fut-ure PReP specifications will likely be done Apple’s way. Switching to the PReP would mean that Apple’s proprietary System 7 would run on other PReP-compliant PowerPC systems. It also means that users could choose to run other PReP-compliant operating systems, including Windows NT or Unix, on their PowerPC Macs. The hurdle for Apple is formidable – it could start a transition as soon as next year – but the same is true on the other side of the fence where physical changes to the structure of PReP will seriously inconvenience anyone already doing PowerPC work. IBM, which has a couple of engineers assigned to the Solaris implementation, has already committed to offering Personal AIX, OS/2, Workplace OS, Taligent, Windows and Windows NT on the AT-enabled Power Personals, and is set to get Santa Cruz Unix up next, followed, it hints, by NeXTstep and UnixWare, if conditions are right.