Object Laggards

As a new computer system introduced in the late 1980s, NeXTSTEP was able to fully implement an object-oriented approach from the beginning. NeXT's competitors have had to phase in their object strategies.

"The world is not object-oriented now and we can't throw away the functions that we already have," says John Slitz, OMG's vice-president of marketing. Unless companies have a means for building a distributed, object-oriented environment out of parts that are both object-oriented and conventional, "it is flat out not going to work."

Microsoft, for example, builds Object Linking and Embedding, or OLE, into its Windows operating environment. OLE is a lot like NeXTSTEP 3.0's Object Links it lets users copy and paste data between different application programs and have the pasted data automatically update when the source data later changes. But Microsoft's long-term strategy is a project code-named "Cairo," a totally new integrated windowing and workgroup environment that is still in the research-and-development phase.

"The goal is to [help the user] find information anywhere in the world," says Julie Plimpton, a company spokeswoman. Plimpton expects Microsoft to slowly fold the new Cairo technology which she says is similar in principle to NeXTSTEP into Windows. "The problem with current object-oriented products is that they make you give up your current investment. Our whole idea is that we don't want you to do that. We want you to maintain and keep your current investment in technology and be able to build on that."

Even Apple and IBM now seem to be backing off initial promises for their Taligent joint-development initiative. Although Taligent's object-oriented Pink operating system was originally billed by the two companies as a replacement for Macintosh System 7 and IBM's OS/2, both companies have recently reaffirmed their commitments to their own proprietary operating systems. The companies now claim to be targeting Taligent for customers who need an object-oriented platform to develop "mission-critical custom applications."