Microsoft chief Bill Gates says his Windows 'standard' has prevented the personal computer suffering the fate of Unix. What he means is that Unix is a divided world, without standards. The Open Group is trying to change that with the release of Unix 98, with which the non-profit organisation aims to create open and universal information technology (IT) standards. It launched Unix 98 in May with the intention of creating a universal standard to which Unix vendors could adopt their products. Unix 98 covers base (operating systems), workstations and servers. Unix 98 had brought Unix closer to total integration, the Open Group's managing director for Asia-Pacific, John Hendy, said. 'We have the basics. We have the Unix workstation with CDE [common desktop environment], as well as a Unix server and an Internet server.' The inability to inter-operate between the different 'flavours' of Unix created by competing hardware vendors has been a stumbling block for the industry. Some corporations have moved to the Windows NT platform because it is cheaper and also offers more products, written by developers who are not prepared to write to each version of Unix. Creating a world of inter-operable Unix platforms required adoption of Unix 98 by all vendors, Mr Hendy said. 'It is true that not all the major vendors have adopted Unix 98 yet, but we are well on the way to it,' he said. So far, only IBM, Sun and NCR have adopted the standard and received the Unix 98 brand on their products. 'Hewlett-Packard will get the brand very soon . . . I can't speak for Digital [Equipment] and Compaq, but I expect them to follow soon,' Mr Hendy said. Nearly all sponsors of the Open Group are Unix vendors, including Digital Equipment, Fujitsu, HP, Hitachi, IBM, NCR, Siemens-Nixdorf and Sun Microsystems. Even Microsoft, whose NT platform has reaped market share from Unix fragmentation, is a member. Much work of the Open Group's is about branding, or allowing vendors to put the organisation's logo on their products. 'We want to get vendors to give a guarantee of their products,' Mr Hendy said. 'Our organisation gives them a legal guarantee. If a product has the Open Group's logo on it, it must conform to the standard.' The Open Group says it is vendor-neutral, with many of the major IT companies as members. 'We have about 220 members and they represent one quarter of the world's IT spending,' Mr Hendy said. 'Unix is still selling more in terms of value than NT.' Products with the Open Group's brand add up to about US$25 billion, or one-eighth of global IT spending. The Open Group may not be the IT police, but as a neutral organisation, well respected by the large vendors, it can create standards that might not otherwise exist. Most IT professionals are not really interested in the latest technology; they are interested in technology that will help them in their business. With the Open Group's logo on something, they at least have some idea of what they are getting.