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Taligent

Taligent was the name of an object-oriented operating system and the company dedicated to producing it. Today, both are gone. The system started ethically, although, as we will soon find, its ethics took a one-way trip to China-town.

What would eventually become Taligent started in a roundabout way in 1988. After Apple Computer's latest effort to develop a new Macintosh had culminated in the Macintosh II, a new version of the Mac OS had been developed to support it, System 6.0. At this point, the OS developers had a meeting in which they decided what they should be doing in the future, and started writing down their ideas on index cards. Ideas that were simple and could be included in a new version of the existing software were written on blue colored cards, those that were more "far out" were written on pink cards.

And so was born Pink, which would slowly develop into a quest for a new operating system that would be the best in the world. The idea was to produce an object-oriented OS on top of a new microkernel, which was likely inspired by what Steve Jobs was doing at NeXT Computer. Unlike NeXT, however, the Apple team would use the C++ programming language, and the system would run existing Mac OS programs as well.

By this time, however, the team writing the system based on the blue cards (now known as the Blue Meanies) were well advanced on what would be released in 1991 as System 7. The problem was that System 7 was so large it barely fit into any existing Macintosh, meaning that if Pink were going to run Mac OS programs, it would basically have no room for itself.

Meanwhile, corporate immune response within Apple essentially doomed Pink. To those working on Blue, Pink was seen as a project that might steal mindshare from their own work. As the turf-war grew, engineers started to abandon Pink to work on Blue, and whole projects were brought into one group or another in a huge flurry of empire-building[?].

Apple continued to talk about Pink as if it were to be the future Mac OS, and magazines throughout the early 1990s showed various mock-ups of what it would be like. One true innovation of the system was the People, Places and Things metaphor that attempted to provide the user with tools to easily move documents around between people and things (like fax machines) as easily as they could print them using current technologies. The system also added a component-based document model that was similar to Apple's OpenDoc (and later became OpenDoc). This was one of a very few concepts that was sorely missing from OpenStep, whose concept of a document was merely "a file on the disk."

As development dragged on, Apple eventually entered the AIM alliance with IBM and Motorola. IBM had extensive experience in object-oriented programming, notably their well-respected VisualAge[?] Smalltalk programming system. They also had experience in microkernel design as a side-effect of their Mach based WorkplaceOS efforts.

Pink was then spun off from Apple as a joint project known as Taligent. Here the original Apple team was expanded with the addition of a number of IBM engineers, as well as a new CEO from IBM, Joe Gugliemi (apparently to the distaste of many of the Apple people). They then spent much of the next year trying to figure out what their new OS should do, and started a massive project surveying their customers, only to find the customers had no interest in a new OS at all. The Taligent team then decided to change focus. Instead of creating an object-oriented operating system, they would deliver an object-oriented programming system running on any modern operating system.

The result was CommonPoint. CommonPoint consisted of more than a hundred object-oriented frameworks and well over a thousand classes. It ran on top of AIX, HP-UX, OS/2, Windows NT, and a new Apple OS kernel called nuKernel (which didn't yet exist). This made Taligent essentially identical to OpenStep, the target system they had originally planned to one-up.

A combination of C++ and IBM and Apple's names on the project suggested that it might prove to be more successful than OpenStep. Early in 1994, Hewlett-Packard became a Taligent partner as well, which was odd considering that HP decided in the same year to produce OpenStep on their platforms. Several existing OpenStep customers stated they would move to Taligent as soon as it was ready. The first versions of CommonPoint shipped for AIX and OS/2 in mid-1995, but were met with a lukewarm response in terms of sales.

By 1995 Apple still didn't have an OS capable of running Taligent, and while work continued on the fabled Copland (which was designed to run Taligent), it was fairly clear to all involved that Apple had lost all interest in Taligent. Meanwhile, there was a reduction in force at the end of 1995 as Taligent made the decision to focus on the technology and leave marketing to their partners—which at this point meant "IBM."

Taligent then became a wholly-owned subsidiary of IBM. IBM used parts of Taligent to create the Open Class class libraries for VisualAge for C++. Taligent also created a set of Java- and JavaBeans-based development tools called WebRunner[?], a groupware product based on Lotus Notes called Places for Project Teams, and licensed various technologies to Sun for use in Java. After two years as a wholly-owned subsidiary, Taligent was dissolved January 1998 and the engineering teams became IBM employees.

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