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Microsoft ports to Unix

Microsoft steps up its efforts to make Windows technologies, including ActiveX, available to Unix platforms.

Microsoft (MSFT) and Mainsoft today stepped up efforts to make Windows technologies, including ActiveX, available to Unix platforms.

MainSoft has been one of Microsoft's chief partners in translating Windows technologies to Unix. But in recent months, as competing cross-platform technologies such as Java have taken off, Microsoft has accelerated its efforts to make key software such as ActiveX and Internet Explorer 3.0 available on Unix, not to mention Macintosh.

Today, Mainsoft shipped MainWin 2.0, a product that delivers the underlying software "plumbing" required for developers to create ActiveX controls on Unix workstations.

Since it holds a source code license to all of Microsoft's Win32 API set, Mainsoft plans to gradually roll out more underlying pieces of Windows on Unix, including the Distributed Component Architecture (DCOM), which will allow developers to build Unix server-based applications as well desktop applications, Mainsoft president Jeff Elpern said today.

"This gives developers and companies a single object strategy that runs across both [Windows and Unix] environments," Elpern said.

But until the pieces of MainWin that enable server application development materialize, analysts expect the product will have limited appeal among companies due to a less pressing need for desktop ActiveX controls on Unix.

"There's not much of a market there," said David Smith, an Internet analyst at the Gartner Group.

However, the demand for client-side ActiveX controls could get a boost when Microsoft releases a Unix version of Internet Explorer 3.0 later this year.

Mainsoft's efforts to port ActiveX to Unix could be followed by others, Smith said. Earlier this month, Microsoft provided software and specifications to standards body The Open Group for making ActiveX an open, cross-platform technology, a development that could lead to Unix ActiveX implementations by other companies.

MainWin 2.0 is priced at $8,000 per user and is supported on Sparc Solaris 2.5, x86 Solaris 2.5.1, and Irx 6.2.

Today, Microsoft also extended a source code license with Mainsoft that will allow the Unix developer to port the next version of Microsoft Visual SourceSafe to Unix platforms.

In other news, Microsoft today licensed software from Fore Systems that will allow Windows users to take advantage of high-speed ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) networks. The software giant said that it would bundle the ForeThought ATM LAN Emulation Client software directly into future versions of Windows so that its easier for corporate PC users to get hooked up to ATM networks.