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Transitive’s Emulation Sensation?

September 27th, 2004 · No Comments

Technology Review writes: “A startup claims it has created software that lets programs run on any operating systemand any processorwithout slowing down. Is the hype for real this time?”

Software emulatorssoftware that allows another piece of software to run on hardware for which it was not originally intendedhave been an elusive goal for the computing industry for almost 30 years. The ability to port software to multiple hardware configurations is something companies such as IBM, Intel, and Sun Microsystems are constantly working on. Software emulators do exist today, but most are narrowly focused, allowing one particular program to run on one other processor type. Sometimes, performance suffers with the use of an emulator.

It was with a shock, then, that I read the announcement by tiny Transitive Software of a new product, Quick Transit, that it claims allows software applications compiled for one processor and operating system to run on another processor and operating system without any source code or binary changes. My first thoughts went straight to the heart of the Linux/Microsoft battle. Could this software emulator be used to run Microsoft programs on Linux? And wouldnt that be inviting the full wrath of the Microsoft legal team?

I called the Los Gatos, CA-based startup to learn more and ended up talking with CEO Bob Wiederhold, who spoke from Manchester, England, home of the companys engineering offices. Wiederhold immediately dashed my grander ideas. If we tried to run Windows programs on a Linux platform, Microsoft would be upset, Wiederhold said. Thats not what were trying to do. Wiederholds initial goals are less incendiary, but could bring about big changes in the way companies manage their technology assets. Whats more, the technology could eventually drift down to the consumer level, where it could allow older video games to play on newer versions of game platforms (such as Microsofts Xbox, or Sony Playstation). The initial target market for the product, however, is large computer makers.

Wiederhold says Quick Transit has been in development for nine years, and that its the first software emulator that works with a broad array of processors with minimal performance degradation. Typically, software emulatorswhen they do worksuffer performance hits; a cursor arrow struggles to move across the screen, or there’s a two-second delay after clicking on a file menu before the dialogue box opens. Analysts who have seen Quick Transit report that it exhibits no such degradation.

Wired News also wrote about Transitive earlier.

Tags: Software

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