IBM to Offer Version of an AT&T System As Feature on Its Personal Computer Line
By Susan Chace
The Wall Street Journal
January 13, 1984
RYE BROOK, N.Y. -- International Business Machines Corp. said it would offer a feature on its personal computers developed by its arch rival, American Telephone & Telegraph Co.
IBM announced late yesterday that it would offer a version of UNIX, a computer operating system developed at Bell Laboratories that has become widely popular among computer professionals.
An operating system is a crucial part of a computer. Sometimes called the "software soul," it organizes the hardware and computer-applications program into an integrated whole. It acts like a traffic cop, directing information to the proper place.
IBM's version of UNIX is called Personal Computer Interactive Executive. IBM said the system could be used for program development, text processing, or running a wide variety of existing UNIX-system application programs, "from accounting to aerodynamics."
The fact that IBM introduced a UNIX-look-alike product is a bow from the computer giant to the potential power of UNIX in the office-automation marketplace, a turf over which both IBM and AT&T are seeking dominance.
In the UNIX marketplace, AT&T currently has the power because it can update the system at will and cause its licensees to follow suit. IBM would have to follow AT&T's lead. This gives AT&T a marketing headstart that IBM usually enjoys when it introduces additions to its products.
UNIX is a particularly good system for developing communications programs among various office machines and for multiuser and multitasking activities. For example, two people working on separate terminals, but using information in the same computer running UNIX, can perform such separate tasks as invoice accounting and mailing-list adjustments without interfering with each other.
UNIX is also popular because AT&T licensed it for a nominal fee to universities for many years. Consequently, it developed a strong following among computer programmers. UNIX-trained professionals number about 150,000, and analysts note, they are a particularly influential group in large firms deciding which computer systems to buy.
AT&T hopes that UNIX will become the standard operating system for office systems. This would give the telephone company a huge advantage if, as expected, it introduces desktop computers later this year.
IBM said its UNIX version was developed by Interactive Systems Corp., a California-based software maker. It will be available in April through IBM's National Accounts and National Marketing divisions, the company said. It costs $900.
Analysts said that IBM was forced to offer a UNIX-derived product to cover all the bases of its competitors. Its personal computer already offers a choice of several operating systems including the popular PC DOS development by Microsoft Inc., CP/M, developed by Digital Research Inc. and the UCSD p-system. About 90% of new application programs written for the Personal Computer use the PC-DOS/MS-DOS operating system.
But new office computers that run UNIX and that will be introduced by AT&T this year require IBM to offer UNIX on IBM machines, industry observers say.
Copyright (c) 1984, Dow Jones & Co., Inc.