In an apparent attempt to rally Unix forces for the coming battle with Microsoft Corp’s Windows NT, Unix International Inc hopes to raise the bar above the desktop metaphor issue with a new edition of its RoadMap, due next February. In it, Unix International is expected to outline specifications or requirements for methods of standardising […]
In an apparent attempt to rally Unix forces for the coming battle with Microsoft Corp’s Windows NT, Unix International Inc hopes to raise the bar above the desktop metaphor issue with a new edition of its RoadMap, due next February. In it, Unix International is expected to outline specifications or requirements for methods of standardising graphical user interfaces, as well as the implementation of multi-media technologies and installation procedures. Unix International claims the RoadMap will show that the graphical user interface an issue that has bedevilled the Unix community for the last four years – is separable from the operating system. The problem of accommodating inconsistent, if not incompatible, graphical user interfaces has been a persistent and nagging thorn in the side of industry standards organisations – Unix International, X/Open Co Ltd and the IEEE alike. We’ll let the market decide was a stock answer to the which graphical user interface? question. Although the market would appear to have plumped for the Open Software Foundation’s Motif, Sun Microsystems Inc, the largest dedicated Unix systems vendor, remains exclusively committed to its Open Look alternative in the Solaris operating system delivered with its machines. Indeed the proliferation of Unix implementations now on offer to desktop system users featuring integrated operating system kernels, graphics, iconic interfaces, networking and other components appears to have made the problem even more intractable.
They’ll buy a desktop Unix client
While the majority of Unix applications are still character-based – and most can run unchanged across different versions of Unix – desktop graphical user interfaces create differences that require applications to be modified. Raising the bar, argues Unix International’s Dave Sandell, will relegate the graphical interface issue by allowing firms to use the interface specifications to ensure desktop compatibility, leaving them free to compete on implementation, not on application programming interfaces. Unix International believes desktop Unix will be successful if it can convince users of the interoperability and compatibility of applications running on systems. If users think they can run the same applications under Solaris, Destiny and Open Desktop, then they’ll buy a desktop Unix client. That is our number one role. Moreover, to compete successfully against Microsoft’s NT, users must be assured that applications will run under one version of Unix just as easily as another. NT is the ultimate competition and we need as much commonality as is feasible to meet the challenge says Sandell. The bone of contention among desktop suppliers is where interoperability ends and where competition starts. All Unix International members – including SunSoft – will have to sign off on the new document, now in draft form, before it can be published. However Unix International RoadMaps do not commit members to using the reference technologies or interface specifications they include. Unix System V.4.0, 4.1, 4.2, ES and MP are all Unix International reference technologies, but that didn’t stop ICL Plc doing its own multiprocessing System V.4 implementation, Data General Corp working on DG/UX and SunSoft Inc developing its Solaris 2.0 desktop. But to fulfill these latest desktop compatibility id-eals, Unix International will need members to back its interface specifications with technology implementations. Many regard SunSoft Inc as being the most dogmatic in its approach to the issue – some are worried about the company’s drift towards what they see as proprietary technology. Sun is going off on a sep-arate direction. We want more co-operation but don’t understand the things they [SunSoft] are doing, says Unix System Laboratories Inc. The problem is that Sun would have to make fundamental chan-ges to Solaris if Unix Labs’s Unix System V.4.2 interface specifications are adopted in the new RoadMap. Unix Labs says it would be happy to help Sun do that, but SunSoft, which also has a seat on Unix Labs’s board, i
s currently lobbying hard to get its own views adopted by Unix International, and to do that it needs to get other members on its side.