Transitive To Unveil Computing’s Rosetta Stone?

By on September 13, 2004

Wired News reports on Transitive Computing, which is set to unveil a new software called QuickTransit, which claims to be the ultimate platform emulator.

A Silicon Valley startup claims to have cracked one of most elusive goals of the software industry: a near-universal emulator that allows software developed for one platform to run on any other, with almost no performance hit.


QuickTransit fully supports accelerated 3-D graphics and about 80 percent computational performance on the main processor. It requires no user intervention: It kicks in automatically when a non-native application is launched.

“It’s pretty darn impressive,” said analyst Jim Turley. “It’s remarkable because it’s unremarkable (to see it in action): It just works.”

Sounds like snake oil to me. Even if you solve the problem of instruction translation in an efficient way, you still have to deal with the different semantics of the various operating systems. What comes up on OSX when the app tries to list the D: drive? What happens on Windows when an app scans the Linux kernel to see if USB support is loaded?

I can’t help but notice either, that they demo Quake III running on a Mac, but the Mac is running KDE, which I imagine means it’s running Linux. Most of what they demo is versions of apps running on environments for which there are already versions of that app.

Here’s something else that gives me pause:

Analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group said Transitive benefits from the fact that most modern machines are fast enough to emulate each other without much affecting performance.

“Typically with emulation you take a big performance hit,” he said. “Their big breakthrough is they are much more efficient … but there’s so much overhead anyway, you can pretty much put any software on any platform. The power user might notice the difference, but the other 95 percent won’t notice.”

Any time I see ol’ Rob Enderle quoted for a tech article, my BS-o-meter starts twitching. Here’s what Dave Winer had to say about him:

Enderle’s presence is a warning sign. I see a quote from him I get the message. The reporter is out of ideas and has decided to cut corners.

Here’s hoping I’m wrong about the whole thing. I can’t wait to play all of the latest XBox games on my Linux box.