On 14 March another piece of software died. This was OpenDoc, a compound document environment that began life with a silver spoon in its mouth, courtesy of its five parents - Apple, IBM, Borland, WordPerfect and Novell.
Four of them had already abandoned their offspring, most recently IBM.
Eleven days ago, the last, Apple, joined its fellows.
Much was expected of OpenDoc at its launch in 1993, and at its second birthday in 1995 when it was demonstrated at PC Expo in New York. Now, before it's turned four, OpenDoc has ceased to be.
The omens at that 1995 demo weren't encouraging: one of the participants in the exercise collapsed on stage (the New York heat was blamed) prompting her colleagues to claim that she'd yanked the power cable out, rendering the demo an impossibility. If only that had been the worst problem to afflict the technology.
Unsurprisingly for a product backed by Apple, OpenDoc was well rated, elegant and popular among the audiences to whom it was (successfully) demonstrated. But demos are one thing, fully fledged code quite another.
One by one, the original participants gave up the ghost on their troubled child. Novell refused to stump up sufficient resources to honour its side of the bargain, and looming in the background - and soon the foreground - was Microsoft with its rival OLE technology.
If OpenDoc was to prosper and thrive, it needed to be interoperable with OLE. Without it, it was marginalised.
Novell gave up on OpenDoc altogether in late 1995, leaving good old IBM to pick up the pieces. There weren't many pieces to pick up, and the "final" release was put off for a year while some serious head-scratching/development work went on.
As we all know, 1996 wasn't a good choice of year to take your time over things, software development-wise. New and non-existent products were being churned out or marketed at a rate of knots, fuelled by the Internet and World Wide Web feeding frenzy. It was - and still is - no place for the faint-hearted.
IBM stuck with OpenDoc longer than many would have done, save Apple, and little good has it done either of them. Unlike most games of poker, the last one at the table in this case was the loser not the winner.
Which all makes the following assertion rather ironic. "The benefits of widespread adoption of the OpenDoc architecture are revolutionary for both users and developers. Yet it will be a gentle re-evolution - one without dramatic upheavals." That was "The Shape of the Future" according to the OpenDoc gang, circa 1993. They can't be the first parents to have had such high hopes.
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