Taligent, once a byword for vapourware, and a symbol of Apple and IBM's failure to collaborate, is poised to deliver again.
The IBM subsidiary subsidiary expects by midyear to have concluded OEM licensing agreements with several top-tier software manufacturers in an initiative that stands to alter the global software localisation landscape.
In an exclusive briefing at Taligent's Cupertino, California, headquarters last week, company executives revealed that Taligent has lined up high-profile licensees for a newly developed, platform-independent Unicode internationalisation package.
The package being commercialised by Taligent, dubbed "Unicode Analytics," will give developers a valuable shortcut in the laborious process of fully internationalizing their software, says Mark Davis, director of core technologies at Taligent and president of the Unicode Consortium. "The programmer can use these facilities to make one program that works basically anywhere in the world," he says.
"We're trying to package it up so that it's not just a one-off licensing deal," adds Debbie Coutant, Taligent's general manager and CEO. "Then we have a package that we can also license to others."
The Taligent initiative is an extension of work the company performed last June for Sun's JavaSoft subsidiary. In that case, Davis' team at Taligent provided the Unicode-based internationalization technology found in Release 1.1 of the Java Development Kit. Now that technology is being made available to the mass C/C++ development market.
"There's a lot of interest in this," Davis says. "We've had people come to us and say, `We need it on a different time schedule' and go away, and then come back to us and say, 'Nobody else has it, what's the earliest you can get it to us?' So I think there's a lot of need for a platform-independent package like this."
According to Ron Barr, Taligent's director of product marketing, that's an understatement.
"We're surprised by the demand for it, so we're trying to staff up and rearrange our schedules so we can account for all these customers wanting to purchase this," Barr says. He declines to identify the prospective licensees, citing ongoing contract negotiations, but says they are key players with broad market coverage.
"The people we're talking about are [among] the top five [companies] in this marketplace, so these are big names," he says. "They have similar platform needs to what JavaSoft has." The first of several deals will be announced "within weeks."
Still, according to Coutant, no one should infer that broadening the internationalization initiative means Taligent is taking its eye off the Java ball, even momentarily. In addition to working closely with JavaSoft - which subleases its Cupertino headquarters from Taligent - the company is looking further out into the Java community.
"We're in a lot of discussions with people like Netscape and some other players that are doing some Java UI [user interface] work," she says. "We're trying to fill two roles: One is to try to be a catalyst in the industry to make sure that Java as a platform is successful; and then secondly to be IBM's advocate for helping IBM products succeed in this space."