First shot at a Summary (Was Re: SOLARIS WABI)

From: Ajay Shah (
Date: Tue May 18 1993 - 01:30:58 CDT

rob@asimov.uucp (Robert Boucher) writes:

>After reading the WABI threads, it appears that we all have opinions
>and very little facts. Hopefully someone at Sun will provide more
>meat on this new piece of technology.

Yes, I hope SunSelect gives out a nice tex document on this.

My understanding is summarised below. I may well be off track,
so corrections are welcome.

a) At _runtime_, wabi converts the MSW binary into a Solaris
   binary and executes it. At runtime there is no SoftPC-type
   big brother watching.

b) MSW library calls are translated into X calls. For Solaris/Intel
   nothing else is needed.

   This is why it won't run dirty MS-DOS applications. They do things
   to hardware which is a pain in the butt to deal with.

   BTW this is the same idea inside desqview/X, when it allows a
   MSW binary running on a PC to display on any X display server on
   the network.

c) On a SPARC box, the x86 instructions are translated into SPARC

   That can take quite some compiler-backend-type competence on
   the part of the translator.

   It seems that the Wabi implementation does not put in too much effort
   here right now. The reasons:

        1) the objective is to allow MSW binaries for "user-friendly"
           software to run on SPARC. In any case, nobody in his senses
           is using MSW for heavy computation. So speed is not a big issue.

        2) when a interactive MSW program is running, it is spending most
           of it's time in Mr. Dimwit MSW. The translated library
           calls are done in X windows. Bloated as X may be, it's much
           faster than MSW. So interactive applications (overall) run
           much faster on a low-end SPARC box with WABI than on a
           comparable (spec{int,fp}92) Intel box running MSW.

   Presumably at some point SunPro can get together with SunSelect
   and improve the code generation.

d) The only library interface supported is what Microsft calls
   "win16", because that is where the applications are.
   There is no mention of the future product "Windows NT" because
   it'll be years before that OS stabilises and the applications
   become available (if at all).

e) This can be easily ported to all Solaris architectures; e.g. PowerPC.

f) None of this uses any code from Microsoft. Word has it that
   Microsoft still wants to collect $50 per copy. There may be a
   lawsuit in the works, hence Solaris shipments come with a Wabi
   coupon, not the product (so that if there is a court injunction
   it won't disrupt Solaris distribution).

   Notice how Microsoft has not been able to collect any money out
   of the 50-100k copies of desqview/X sold so far.

g) Apple is rumored to be working on a similar product which will
   run 68k Mac binaries on Unix platforms.


Ajay Shah, (213)749-8133,

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