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The Common Open Software Environment (COSE) was an initiative formed in March 1993 by the major
Unix Unix (; trademarked as UNIX) is a family of multitasking, multiuser Multi-user software is computer software Software is a collection of Instruction (computer science), instructions that tell a computer how to work. This is in contrast t ...

Unix
vendors of the time to create open, unified
operating system An operating system (OS) is system software System software is software designed to provide a platform for other software. Examples of system software include operating systems (OS) like macOS, Linux, Android (operating system), Android and Mi ...

operating system
(OS) standards.


Background

The COSE process was established during a time when the "
Unix wars The Unix wars were the struggles between vendor In a supply chain In commerce Commerce is the exchange of goods and services, especially on a large scale. Etymology The English-language word ''commerce'' has been derived from the Latin wor ...
" had become an impediment to the growth of Unix.
Microsoft Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company, technology corporation which produces Software, computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services. Its best-know ...

Microsoft
, already dominant on the corporate desktop, was beginning to make a bid for two Unix strongholds: technical workstations and the enterprise
data center A data center (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American Eng ...
. In addition,
Novell Novell, Inc. was an American software and services company headquartered in Provo, Utah Provo is the third-largest city in Utah, United States. It is south of Salt Lake City along the Wasatch Front. Provo is the largest city and county se ...

Novell
was seeing its
NetWare NetWare is a discontinued computer network operating system A network operating system (NOS) is a specialized operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resources, ...
installed base steadily eroding in favor of Microsoft-based networks; as part of a multi-faceted approach to battling Microsoft, they had turned to Unix as a weapon, having recently formed a Unix-related partnership with
AT&T AT&T Inc. is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational state, a ...

AT&T
known as
Univel Univel, Inc. was a joint venture of Novell Novell, Inc. was an American software and services company headquartered in Provo, Utah Provo is the third-largest city in Utah, United States. It is south of Salt Lake City along the Wasatc ...
. Unlike other Unix unification efforts that preceded it, COSE was notable in two ways: it was not formed in opposition to another set of Unix vendors, and it was more oriented toward making standards of existing technologies than creating new offerings from scratch. The initial members, (known as "The Big Six" or "SUUSHI"), were: * The
Santa Cruz Operation The Santa Cruz Operation, Inc. (usually known as SCO, pronounced either as individual letters or as a word) was an American software company, based in Santa Cruz, California, that was best known for selling three Unix operating system variants f ...
*
Unix System Laboratories Unix System Laboratories (USL), sometimes written UNIX System Laboratories to follow relevant trademark guidelines of the time, was an American software laboratory and product development company that existed from 1989 through 1993. At first wh ...
*
Univel Univel, Inc. was a joint venture of Novell Novell, Inc. was an American software and services company headquartered in Provo, Utah Provo is the third-largest city in Utah, United States. It is south of Salt Lake City along the Wasatc ...
*
Sun Microsystems Sun Microsystems, Inc. (Sun for short) was an American technology company that sold computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to Execution (computing), carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. M ...
*
Hewlett-Packard The Hewlett-Packard Company, commonly shortened to Hewlett-Packard ( ) or HP, was an American multinational information technology company headquartered in Palo Alto, California Palo Alto (; Spanish language, Spanish for "tall stick" ...

Hewlett-Packard
*
IBM International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is an American multinational technology company headquartered in Armonk, New York, with operations in over 170 countries. The company began in 1911, founded in Endicott, New York, as the C ...

IBM
These represented the significant Unix system and OS vendors of the time, as well as the holders of the Unix brand and AT&T-derived source code. They also represented almost all the key players in the two major Unix factions of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the OSF and
Unix InternationalUnix International (UI) was an association created in 1988 to promote open standards, especially the Unix Unix (; trademarked as UNIX) is a family of multitasking, multiuser Multi-user software is computer software Software is a collectio ...
(UI). Notable in its absence was OSF co-founder
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; Digital did finally announce its endorsement of the COSE process the following June. COSE's announced areas of focus were: a common desktop environment; networking; graphics; multimedia; object-based technology; and, systems management. On September 1, 1993 it was also announced that the COSE vendors were developing a unified Unix specification with the support of over 75 companies.


Unix standardization

Unlike OSF or UI, the COSE initiative was not tasked to create or promote a single operating system. Their approach was to instead survey and document the OS interfaces already in use by Unix software vendors of the time. This resulting list, originally known as "Spec 1170", evolved to become what is now known as the
Single Unix Specification The Single UNIX Specification (SUS) is the collective name of a family of standards for computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to Execution (computing), carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. ...
. Spec 1170 (no relation to the
SPEC The Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) is an American non-profit corporation A nonprofit corporation is any legal entity which has been Incorporation (business), incorporated under the law of its jurisdiction for purposes other t ...
benchmarking organization) was named after the results of the first COSE effort to determine which Unix interfaces were actually in use; inspection of a large sample of current Unix applications uncovered 1,170 such system and library calls. As might be expected, the actual number of interfaces cataloged continued to grow over time. Management of the specification was given to
X/OpenX/Open Company, Ltd., originally the Open Group for Unix Systems, was a consortium founded by several European UNIX systems manufacturers in 1984 to identify and promote open standards in the field of information technology. More specifically, the or ...
. In October 1993, it was announced that the UNIX trademark, which was at that time owned by Novell, would be transferred to X/Open. These developments meant that the UNIX brand was no longer tied to one source code implementation; any company could now create an OS version compliant with the UNIX specification, which would then be eligible for the UNIX brand.


Common Desktop Environment

Besides the opening and standardization of the UNIX brand, the most notable product of the COSE initiative was the
Common Desktop Environment The Common Desktop Environment (CDE) is a desktop environment In computing, a desktop environment (DE) is an implementation of the desktop metaphor made of a bundle of programs running on top of a computer operating system that share a common ...

Common Desktop Environment
, or CDE. CDE was an
X11 The X Window System (X11, or simply X) is a windowing system for bitmap displays, common on Unix-like operating systems. X provides the basic framework for a GUI environment: drawing and moving windows on the display device and interacting with ...

X11
-based user environment jointly developed by HP, IBM, and Sun, with an interface and productivity tools based on OSF's
Motif Motif may refer to: General concepts * Motif (chess composition), an element of a move in the consideration of its purpose * Motif (folkloristics), a recurring element that creates recognizable patterns in folklore and folk-art traditions * Motif ...
graphical
widget toolkit A widget toolkit, widget library, GUI toolkit, or UX library is a library A library is a collection of materials, books or media that are easily accessible for use and not just for display purposes. It is responsible for housing updated infor ...
.


Other technology areas

Although in the areas of desktop and the OS itself the COSE process was one of unification, in other announced areas, it was decided to endorse existing technologies from both camps rather than pick one. For example, the announced direction for networking was for all participants to sell, deliver and support OSF's DCE, UI's ONC+, and a NetWare client. Other areas were addressed in very broad terms. For object-based technology,
CORBA The Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) is a standard Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or requirement * Stand ...
was called out as the underlying technology, but method of implementation was left to the individual companies.


Legacy

In March 1994 UI and OSF announced their merger into a new organization, which retained the OSF name. The COSE initiative became the basis of the new OSF's "Pre-Structured Technology" (PST) process. These efforts in turn eventually became the responsibility of
The Open Group The Open Group is a global consortium that seeks to "enable the achievement of business objectives" by developing "open Open or OPEN may refer to: Music * Open (band) Open is a band. Background Drummer Pete Neville has been involved in the ...
, an entity formed by the merger of the new OSF and X/Open in 1996. In the end, the most significant product of the COSE process was the creation of a universally-recognized single UNIX standard and an independent organization to administer it. It marked the end of Sun's
OPEN LOOK OPEN LOOK (sometimes referred to as Open Look) is a graphical user interface (GUI) specification for UNIX computer workstations, workstations. It was originally defined in the late 1980s by Sun Microsystems and AT&T Corporation. History OPEN ...
graphical environment in favor of a
Motif Motif may refer to: General concepts * Motif (chess composition), an element of a move in the consideration of its purpose * Motif (folkloristics), a recurring element that creates recognizable patterns in folklore and folk-art traditions * Motif ...
-based desktop, at the same time making the latter a standard rather than a proprietary toolkit. Although it had less impact on the other standardization areas it originally intended to address, it nonetheless had a major influence on the future of Unix extending far beyond the 12 months of its independent existence.


References

{{authority control Standards organizations in the United States X Window System Open Group standards Unix history