Desktop Computers Provide New Demand For AT&T's Unix System

The Wall Street Journal

November 8, 1982

American Telephone and Telegraph Co. computer operating system called Unix is enjoying a surge in demand even though it has been around since the late 1960s. It is rumored that even rival International Business Machines Corp. may choose the system for one of its own computers.

New orders for Unix, especially for the generation of high-powered desktop computers due on the market soon, could significantly enhance AT&T's credibility in the booming computerized office systems market.

AT&T hopes to use Unix as a marketing tool now that it has obtained the opportunity -- through its divestiture agreement with the Justice Department -- to compete freely in the multi-billion dollar data processing market. AT&T has to convince businesses it can design a whole interior communications network.

Thus, AT&T last November released a new version that combined into one standard version some of the most popular features of various Unix systems in use throughout the Bell System. It even tacked on extras such as board games, a blackjack dealer and a Tick-Tack-Toe program.

AT&T also slashed the royalty fees it charges to original equipment makers who put Unix in desktop computers sold under brand names. Vendors now pay AT&T as little as $100 per machine, compared with $750 earlier.

So far, half a dozen desktop-computer makers offer Unix as part of their products. Earlier this week, NCR Corp. introduced a computer that uses the system.

In January, Tandy Corp.'s Radio Shack will offer a Unix-based operating system on one of its computers.

IBM is reportedly considering Unix for a new, more advanced personal computer designed for office communications, one of the main Unix strong points. (IBM won't comment on the reports.) Under a Defense Department grant, the University of California at Berkeley is working on ways to fit Unix into numerous computer communications networks.

AT&T has licensed the system to universities for a nominal fee and to some corporations for a much higher fee since the early 1970s.

As a result, thousands of university computer science students became accustomed to Unix.

Computer concerns say Unix can be transferred from one maker's machine to another faster and more easily than many other operating systems.

For instance, Intel Corp. worked with Microsoft Inc. to adapt Xenix, Microsoft's version of Unix, to Intel microprocessors. The job took nine months. Intel estimates the equivalent project would have taken two years if Unix weren't available.

Copyright (c) 1982, Dow Jones & Co., Inc.