Bell, who did not then work for Microsoft, predicted that Windows NT, an enterprise-class Unix competitor introduced by Microsoft in 1993, would force the Unix vendors to try harder to develop something resembling a real standard, but he expressed doubt that they could really pull it off. "The [Unix] cartel has no hope of competing other than to stonewall NT as long as possible," he wrote in the Computerworld article.
Complaints from users like Bell about the non-standardization of Unix, plus competition from Windows NT and Linux, did force some standardization of Unix through the creation of The Open Group's Single Unix Specification and other actions by Unix vendors. In a recent interview, Bell agreed that Unix today "is somewhat more standard than it was pre-Linux."
Asked about its future, Bell would only say, "Unix will continue to be used as a component in embedded systems."
Gary Anthes is a former Computerworld national correspondent.