Mountain View, California-based Sun Microsystems Inc knows that the whole Unix world has Sun as its target, and that it will have to remain several steps ahead of the competition if it is to retain its market lead – and it is not resting on any laurels. The company has has built a Basic Rate […]
Mountain View, California-based Sun Microsystems Inc knows that the whole Unix world has Sun as its target, and that it will have to remain several steps ahead of the competition if it is to retain its market lead – and it is not resting on any laurels. The company has has built a Basic Rate ISDN interface into its new high-end Sparcstation 10 workstations. The heart of the interface is a standard part of the motherboard, and is implemented on a single chip, co-developed by Sun and AT&T Co. Sun is pushing the ISDN interface both as a personal productivity tool and as the basis for more complex speech processing and computer integrated telephony applications. An ISDN interface is not much use without the software to drive it and Sun is not stinting its efforts in this direction either. The machine itself should have telecommunications approval for connection to the ISD networks in the UK, the US, France, Germany and Japan by August or September, according to Jonathan Mills, the company’s UK desktop products marketing manager. The Solaris 2.0 Unix will include the basic drivers for the on-board ISDN hardware. By next spring this will be joined by extra software that will enable all existing Sun applications that use TCP/IP running over Ethernet to run over ISDN giving the technology what it has always needed: a practical use. Sun’s hope of attracting software developers is pinned on its Teleservices Programming Interface.
More intelligent uses
Due around the same time, the Interface is designed to give developers the basic tools that they need to build applications that can use the wide area network technology. At their most basic, this might be a name and address book that can dial the number selected, but the target is for more intelligent uses, such as the shared white board approach, where workers can doodle their ideas on the computer screens linked by one 64Kbps B channel, while chatting about them on a phone connected over the second channel. With the Sparcstation 10 costing what is does, this is not the machine to bring ISDN to everybody’s desktop, however it will serve as a valuable system for demonstrating its potential. While these personal productivity applications are appealing to tecchies, the company admits that most personal users will begin with simple file transfers. The other use of Teleservices Programming Interface is to build proper computer-integrated telephony applications, and Sun’s entry into this swiftly growing market should shake things up a bit. Teleservices Programming Interface gives the programmer full access to D-channel information including calling number indentification. With these facilities, the way is open for customer database files to automatically be retrieved and displayed on an operators’ screen before the phone is answered the kind of time-saving integration between telephone and workstation that telesales operations dream about. The fact that developers will now have an easier start in producing the software should be no bad thing for the market’s progression. Chris Rose