E Pluribus Unix: The Standards Battle That Won't Die

Unix Systems Laboratories Inc. made a big splash on June 16 with a new version of Unix, the basic control program used by most engineering workstations. USL wants to make its new software, known as System V Release 4.2, the standard for all kinds of desktop computers. But Sun Microsystems Inc.'s software subsidiary has other ideas. On June 23, SunSoft plans to introduce a new Unix called Solaris 2.0, which it says is slicker than USL's. It can coordinate machines that have multiple microprocessors and has extra features such as a built-in multimedia electronic-mail system that can relay video messages. Solaris initially will run on machines based on Sun's Sparc microprocessor, but in several months SunSoft says it will release a version for IBM-style PCs.

But SunSoft still has a tough road in PCs. Analysts say Solaris isn't as easy to use as USL's Unix and requires machines with more memory capacity, so it may not appeal to many PC makers and users. And programs written for Solaris won't run on USL's Unix, so software companies will either have to rewrite their programs for each version or choose just one of them.

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