BOSTON — Thirty-one computer makers and users announced Tuesday that they have banded together to develop what they call the next generation of computing: the ability to connect different brands and types of computers to work on a problem simultaneously.
The group, called the Network Computing Forum, plans to develop industrywide standards that will allow all types of computers to be interconnected. However, the forum lacks the participation of such industry leaders as International Business Machines Corp. and Digital Equipment Corp.
The aim of network computing is to allow companies to harness the power of all their computer systems--from desktop to mainframe--which should lead to faster problem solving and permit more complex computing tasks, according to computer industry officials at a news conference at Boston's Computer Museum.
"Today, representatives from all corners of the computer industry have joined to develop and promote a common vision of what computing will be like in the decade ahead," said David L. Nelson, a vice president of Apollo Computer Inc. of Chelmsford, Mass., a prime mover behind the association.
A truly networked computer system would allow a company's mainframe computer to work on one portion of a problem at the same time a desktop computer works on another, rather than just having computers communicate with each other, Nelson said.
"You have these resources but you can't use them because they exist in isolation from each other," said Dennis Gaughan of Software Productivity Consortium, a Reston, Va., group that represents the nation's 14 largest aerospace companies. "Network computing strikes us as the only feasible answer."
The network forum plans to work with associations working to establish computer industry standards for connecting computers, said John Robotham, the group's managing director.
But devising and implementing these networking standards will not be easy, participants said.
"I think the forum has got its work cut out for it," said Joseph F. Gloudeman, president of the MacNeal-Schwendler Corp., a Los Angeles computer software company and a founder of the forum.
Among computer manufacturers in the network association are Apple Computer Inc., Alliant Computer Systems Corp., Floating Point Systems Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc. Computer users represented include Westinghouse Electric Corp., General Electric Co., several universities and computer consulting firms.
Making different types of computers work together has been a priority of the computer industry. But efforts to establish industrywide standards have been hindered by technological and political factors.
The systems created by giants such as IBM and Digital tend to become de facto industry standards, making it difficult for smaller companies to go their own ways.
Digital is a founding member of the Corporation for Open Systems, a national industry group working on standards to allow all computers to interconnect, spokeswoman Betty Eagan said. She said she was unaware of the network forum.
IBM also belongs to the Corporation for Open Systems and is active in other standard-setting bodies. An IBM spokesman did not return several calls seeking comment on the network forum.