Mainsoft to Bring NT Apps to Linux

The first move in making any operating system successful is ensuring that business-critical applications are being built for the platform. If that is not happening, the next move is to access applications that are being built for other platforms. This is what the Linux community is doing. Mainsoft Corp. ( signed an agreement with Red Hat Inc. (, a promoter of the Linux operating system, to help applications designed for Windows NT run on Red Hat Linux.

Mainsoft's MainWin provides this service for most flavors of Unix -- as does rival Bristol Technologies Inc. ( with its Wind/U product line -- by taking advantage of the Microsoft Windows Interface Source Environment (WISE). WISE is a program set up by Microsoft that licenses the source code of many Windows APIs to facilitate development of interoperability solutions that enable customers to integrate Windows-based solutions with Unix and Macintosh systems.

This past summer a long dispute between Bristol and Microsoft Corp. ended. Bristol had accused Microsoft of unfair practices by raising the price for access to WISE and shrinking the available amount of source code Bristol had access to when it came time to sign a contract for Windows NT 4.0 and 5.0 -- since renamed Windows 2000.

Microsoft argued that then-newcomer Mainsoft had signed a similar agreement to the one Bristol was contesting, so Microsoft's practices couldn't have been that unfair. Bristol won the case, but the company was awarded only one dollar. Since then the company has signed the same agreement as Mainsoft. According Josh Yonsky, director of marketing at Bristol, has already received the source code for Windows 2000 APIs.

Some may speculate that Mainsoft’s deal with Red Hat will be detrimental to Microsoft, but Yaacov Cohen, chief operating officer at Mainsoft, doesn't see it that way. Cohen says Mainsoft has a cooperative relationship with Microsoft and discussed the plans to move Windows NT apps to Linux before it was done. Cohen believes Linux is nothing more than another flavor of Unix, thus it is a natural extension of the MainWin product.

The motivating factor, Cohen says, was customers and potential customers coming to Mainsoft looking for a way to get Windows NT applications on the popular Linux platform. "I think what we're trying to do, which is a huge challenge from a technology standpoint, is very important for the industry to write once on Windows, which is the richest platform in particular for developing," Cohen explains. "The ability to deploy on both systems is a huge opportunity for the development community."

Microsoft had no comment with regard to the announcement. Red Hat, on the other hand, is happy about the deal. Donnie Barnes, director of technical programs at Red Hat, however, maintains the company view that Windows NT "doesn't control the server space at this point, and customers' needs are much better served by an open source and open standards model."

Barnes points to Sendmail's dominance in the e-mail handling space and Apache's dominance in the Web serving space as evidence of this. She also explains, however, that MainWin is only a tool for developers that rely on rapid application development (RAD) and not those who want optimal performance with their applications. "Given that in some cases an OS is only as good as the applications that run on it, this is certainly a win since it will provide more applications for Linux," Barnes says.