NeXT, Sun unveil strategy

by Cara A. Cunningham

Boston NeXT and SunSoft used the January ObjectWorld show to trumpet their recent technology agreement as the object strategy for the 1990s and beyond. Company officials did not offer a demonstration of OpenStep for Solaris but said that details about the product will be released in April at a planned Sun developer conference.

"We want to win in objects," said Jim Green, SunSoft's director of object products. In order to achieve this goal, the company partnered with NeXT instead of Taligent because "NEXTSTEP has all the bugs out and is ahead of it all; Taligent is still bumping into walls," he said.

"And even when [Taligent and Microsoft] are done, NeXT will be better." When OpenStep becomes available on Solaris, "it has a great chance of becoming the object standard for open systems," said Paul Vais, NeXT's director of strategic alliances.

To prepare for this future version of Solaris, NeXT officials encouraged developers to continue writing applications on NEXTSTEP for Intel, promising 95-percent compatibility with OpenStep for Solaris.

SunSoft officials pledged to their customers that the existing 8500 Solaris applications will run under OpenStep, while reminding them of the promised benefits that object-based application development will bring.

"Customers are more and more fed up with software development," Green said. "They want instead to run their business. They want to buy objects instead of developing them."

While officials remained tight-lipped about many details, Green did say that developers at NeXT have already extracted OpenStep from the NEXTSTEP operating system, and SunSoft developers have begun porting it to Solaris.

He also said that, while final packaging decisions have not been made, SunSoft will make OpenStep available on Solaris as "part of the system," instead of charging extra for it.

Developers took in the announcements and pondered their moves.

"OpenStep could open up a door for us to take technology that we've already developed to [the NEXTSTEP] marketplace," said Nathan Hatch, WordPerfect Corporation's product marketing manager for UNIX products.

But WordPerfect will continue to do base development for all of its UNIX versions on the current release of Solaris and stick with its November decision to halt development of its word processor for NEXTSTEP, at least for the time being, he said.

Cara A. Cunningham is the U.S. correspondent for the IDG News Service. Additional reporting by Clair Whitmer.