A roundup of events at last month's Uniforum trade show
It seems that even consortiums can't resist the temptation to merge these days. X/Open and the Open Software Foundation will now be collectively known as -- believe it or not -- The Open Group. The organization will focus on developing open systems specifications and technologies in three areas: open systems platforms, distributed computing, and the Internet. The group also hopes to extend the X/Open brand to new technology areas and work with UniForum, the UnixWare Technology Group, the Object Management Group, the World Wide Web Consortium, and the Petrotechnical Open Software Corp.
Senior executives from X/Open and the OSF will mesh to create a single management team, and The Open Group is currently searching for a new CEO. A single advisory board will consist of existing representatives from both organizations along with independent software and end user members from the two board of directors. The Open Group will additionally form a user-specific arm called the Open Group Customer Council. This segment replaces the former OSF End-User Forum and the X/Open User Council. A Marketing Council will also be created.
With so much left undone, the two groups are vague as to when the merger will commence.
Sun's McNealy serves Java again
Sun Microsystems Inc. President and CEO Scott McNealy used his keynote address to talk up the company's Java Internet programming language yet again.
McNealy ad-libbed on some familiar themes: the importance of standards and competition in the Unix market place, the shortcomings of Microsoft Corp., and the future of networked computing.
Unimpressed by the agreement between Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) and the Santa Cruz Operation Inc. (SCO) to co-develop 64-bit Unix, McNealy dismissed the joint venture as an attempt to impose a standard on an open market.
"Two little companies can't get together to try and dictate the future of Unix. Nice try, guys," McNealy said.
The Unix community has always been under pressure to converge on a single standard, but McNealy dismissed the notion as bad for customers. "Computer journalists always ask me when there's going to be one flavor of Unix, and I always say to them: when there's one computer journal which has the answer and meets everybody's needs," McNealy said.
Attempting to set the record straight on Java, McNealy said that the programming language was not suitable for demanding workgroup or server applications, or as an operating system for the much-hyped $500 network device. "Some people have said that it will lead to the demise of Microsoft -- and that's also not true, and that's not what it's intended to do," McNealy said.
Instead, Java should be seen as a development language that provides portability for slim-client applications. "With Java, porting goes the way of punch cards," he said.
McNealy also showed off Sun's Internet terminal, which he called a "Java client" and said Sun will ship these appliances by the end of the year. He specifically mentioned that the devices will cost more than $500, a figure publicized by the likes of Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison regarding similar devices under development.
Sun has a reputation for flamboyancy, and McNealy did not disappoint the Uniforum audience. He began his presentation by showing an MTV-style music video of himself and other senior Sun executives lip-synching to a rock song while engaging in unbusinesslike activites, such as booting cartons ostensibly filled with HP and SGI equipment off the roof of a Sun building.
HP eyes smart cards
In his keynote address at the UniForum, Hewlett-Packard Co. Chairman and CEO Lew Platt said the company is developing an encryption system based on smart cards that could provide secure links across the Internet.
Addressing the Unix community, Platt laid out a road map of the features that Unix needs to provide to customers if it is to continue to thrive. These include low-cost hardware, network-aware applications, network services, and a robust network environment with the right security.
HP is developing a combined hardware and software security system based on a smart card fitted with a microprocessor. With the card and a personal identification number, users would establish their identity when logging on.
HP's smart cards were developed in conjunction with Informix Software's database management software as well as with embedded encryption technology from another vendor. "We think this will be approved by the U.S. government," Platt said. Another advantage of the system is that different encryption software could be loaded on the cards in compliance with different international standards, he said.
The smart cards could also be used for electronic commerce transactions because they feature a general-purpose processor, said Platt. HP did not announce pricing or availability for the security system, but said that it would be supported in the new Summit 3DA 64-bit Unix architecture that HP is developing with SCO. Summit 3DA combines HP-UX with what was once Novell Inc.'s Unixware (now owned by SCO) and SCO's OpenServer.
In product news...
One last thing...
Boole & Babbage deserves kudos for having the best celebrity present at its booth: Jonathan Frakes a.k.a Commander William Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
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