Publisher Arnoldo Mondadori – Mondadori’s Company Archive
Publication Date…. 13/10/1988
Publication Number…. 0035
Page Number…. 0013
Subheading…. The Invitation
Title …. The Open Software Foundation Takes on European Recruitment
Author ….Roberto Mazzoni
Topics …. Computer Industry
People interviewed…. Henning Oldenburg
Creation Date ….07/12/1988
Main Article Text
Four months ago, exactly on May 17, the Open Software Foundation was born, a non-profit research organization, initially sponsored by Apollo Computers, Digital Equipment and Hewlett Packard’s as a response to the coalition between Sun Microsystems and AT & T, targeting the latter’s move to consolidate AT & T’s position of pre-eminence in the international market for UNIX systems. The three founding partners were almost immediately followed by the addition of four other computer giants:IBM, Bull, Siemens Nixdorf, and today, with the recent arrival of Philips, the number of sponsors has risen to eight. Led by technical experts selected from these eight companies mentioned above, Osf is rapidly weaving its web and these days it is officially opening a presentational European office, under the care of Henning Oldenburg arriving to the boss’s chair of European Osf,after having been responsible for the development strategies for Cim applications, at Nixdorf. We took this occasion,to take advantage of his visit to Milan to collect first-hand information and his opinions on the future of Osf. PCWeek: What are your political attitudes regarding AT & T, Sun, and their allies? Oldenburg: In contrast to publicly held beliefs, we are not at war with AT & T and we do not intend to divide the market into two factions nor slow the growth of UNIX. We are a software factory and not a software house because we do not sell our products to the final user.
PCWeek: In practical terms, what is your immediate goal?
Oldenburg: We will develop the Open Application Environment which is a base operating system, centered on Posix and for the specifications of X-Open. This operating system will be enriched with a graphical user interface, high-level communication mechanisms, database, programming languages, and software libraries: that is, all those attribute which UNIX presently, is not able to supply. Our goal is to enable applications to be programmed, so that whatever system they will have to operate on will be irrelevant. Programmers will interact only with the Oae of Osf, following the specifications of our application interfaces, in order to get applications that are transportable from one machine to another, without changing even a comma.
PCWeek: How does the structural management of Osf influence the technological choices of your technical staff and what is the contribution that every single member is required to provide?
Oldenburg: Our association has two membership classes: the sponsors and the common members. So far we have collected eight sponsors, and their contributions amount to $ 4.5 million a year for at least three years, but the funding commitment is unrestricted so, after three years, the quota will be fixed based on our needs. In any case, each of them has undertaken to contribute indefinitely. In return for this substantial contribution, the sponsors get two additional benefits relative to the normal members: they control 75% of the vote in the Administrative Committee, and they have direct access to the technical developments of Osf and,therefore, can produce innovative solutions with a much higher speed than normal members, which must instead await the publication, with all of the technical specifications, before they can act.
PCWeek: But strategic decisions of the council will have the tendency to influence subsequent technological selections?
Oldenburg: That’s true: recently establishing, what was actually done, by accepting only products that were compliant with Posix, one limits the operable technological choices. In the future, there may be other similar directives. However, we are not focused on distinctive architecture, or on a particular chip set, or on a specific vendor. Whatever we produce must be adaptable to the hardware platform of each supplier, and this is the responsibility of each individual manufacturer. Having the ability to engage a group of engineers (up to ten) within the premises of Osf, corporate sponsors will be able to complete these adjustments much more quickly than the regular members can. On the other hand, members pay a common annual enrollment fee of only $ 25,000 if they are for profit companies, and $5,000 if they are research institutions, universities, or government agencies.
PCWeek: Why did you establish enrollment quotas for universities? Do not believe that this discourages enrollment of research institutions?
Oldenburg: We have learned that when a thing is free it is not taken seriously. We want members who are convinced of what they are doing and that actively participate. Among the members, we already have are two U.S. universities.
PCWeek: What is the role of Osf Europe?
Oldenburg: It is necessary to encourage companies who would like to join, especially the common members. Our function is, therefore, to recruit new members and keep them informed of what is happening. The burden of spreading news naturally cannot occupy the people involved in research; To this end we have a division of Osf expressly dedicated to this end, accordingly we have two sections: one for development and one for communications. A third section of Osf is dedicated to long-term research that is not aimed at the realization of any specific product. In the future, the functions of research and that of product development will be added to that of communication, also in Europe and in the Far East, which are the two areas where Osf operates outside of the U.S.. . We will spend 50% of our budget in the United States, 30% in Europe and 20% in the East. These figures are modeled on the value of the total estimated worldwide computing market. The Osf communications office for Europe is based in Brussels and from there we coordinate activities of dissemination and recruitment. We are a total of 10 people. Soon we will have an office for product development in Monaco, Bavaria (25 people at the beginning of next spring and 50 people by the end of 1989), then we will have a research office in Grenoble, but I do not know when.