Remembering Unix Desktops – and What We Can Learn From Them
“The Unix companies were doing a great job of killing themselves off.”
You see, while there were many attempts to create software development standards for Unix, they were too general to do much good — for example Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX) — or they became mired in the business consortium fights between the Open Systems Foundation and Unix International, which became known as the Unix wars.
While the Unix companies were busy ripping each other to shreds, Microsoft was smiling all the way to the bank. The core problem was that the Unix companies couldn’t settle on software standards. Independent Software Vendors (ISV) had to write applications for each Unix platform. Each of these had only a minute desktop market share. It simply made no business sense for programmers to write one version of an application for SCO OpenDesktop (also known as OpenDeathtrap), another for NeXTStep, and still another one for SunOS. Does that sound familiar? That kind of thing is still a problem for the Linux desktop, and it’s why I’m a big fan of Linux containerized desktop applications, such as Red Hat’s Flatpak and Canonical’s Snap.
By the time the two sides finally made peace by joining forces in The Open Group in 1996, it was too late. Unix was crowded out on the conventional desktop, and the workstation became pretty much a Sun Microsystems-only play.
Linux’s GPL license created an “enforced” consortia that allowed it to take over, according to the article — and with Linus Torvalds as Linux’s single leader, “it avoided the old Unix trap of in-fighting…
I’ve been to many Linux Plumbers meetings. There, I’ve seen him and the top Linux kernel developers work with each other without any drama. Today’s Linux is a group effort… The Linux distributors and developers have learned their Unix history lessons. They’ve realized that it takes more than open source; it takes open standards and consensus to make a successful desktop operating system.
And the article also points out that one of those early Unix desktops “is still alive, well, and running in about one in four desktops.”
That operating system, of course, is macOS X, the direct descendent of NeXT’s NeXTSTEP. You could argue that macOS, based on the multi-threaded, multi-processing microkernel operating system Mach, BSD Unix, and the open source Darwin, is the most successful of all Unix operating systems.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.