Taligent and the Ignominious History of Apple/IBM Alliances

It somehow slipped my mind yesterday, but Bill Campbell’s departure made me recall Taligent, the ill-fated “universal operating system” boldly promised and jointly developed by Apple and IBM back in the early 1990s. (Campbell had nothing to do with it; he re-joined Apple as a board member in 1997 after the NeXT reunification. Taligent was one of several pie-in-the-sky fiascos that left Apple in such desperate straits that they had to buy NeXT.) Wikipedia:

Pink was then spun off from Apple as a joint project known as Taligent. The original Apple team was expanded with the addition of a very small number of IBM engineers, as well as a new CEO from IBM, Joe Guglielmi (apparently to the distaste of many of the Apple people).

“In 1992, the earth shook: IBM and Apple clasped hands and pronounced themselves allies. From this union sprang Taligent, a small Cupertino, California, company that’s now developing nothing less than a universal operating system.” —Macworld, 1994

During its first year, IBM persuaded Taligent to replace its internally developed object-oriented microkernel, called Opus, with the microkernel that IBM was using as the base for IBM’s Workplace OS. The change in underlying technology had both positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, Pink would become a personality on top of the IBM Workplace OS. This would create easy migration paths between OS/2, AIX, Mac OS, and Pink by allowing any combination of operating system personalities to run simultaneously on a single computer. On the negative side, this created issues over how to integrate Taligent’s object-oriented device-driver model with Workplace OS’s procedural device-driver model.

The “positive side” was a total pipe dream.

The other previous Apple/IBM collaboration that springs to mind is the PowerPC platform. That was no fiasco, and even saw some good years, but ultimately ended badly. Just two years after Apple’s grand announcement of the G5 CPU, Apple announced it was switching to Intel processors.

Thursday, 17 July 2014