There has been some uncertainty as to the exact year when the standard will be published, hence it has been designated COBOL 9X. At this time, however, it appears that it will be known as COBOL 98.
This particular standard will transform the COBOL Language from what it is to something that one would never expect it to become -- object oriented. Whether this standard is a signal that COBOL's traditional base of large-scale mainframes is being abandoned remains to be seen, for it is doubtful that all of the language's new features can even be implemented on a mainframe. Moreover, downward compatibility with older COBOL releases does not seem to be a high priority with the committee. If this is the case, businesses across the globe may have to undertake major retooling over the coming decade to replace the infrastructure of legacy systems uner which global commerce currently operates. While accounting, inventory, payroll, and other applications of this genre are not terribly interesting, they are critical for the functioning of a global economy.
Of particular significance is the composition of the committee,
for it is no longer under the
domination of mainframe vendors:
X3J4 COBOL Technical Committee
In addition to the X3J4 Committee, WG4 (Working Group 4) and several ad hoc committees are involved in producing the standard. The OO ad hoc committee is most noteworthy, as it is charged with producing the object-oriented features.
This paper contains a survey a few of the new features in the proposed standard and offers some opinion as to the significance of the standard, its potential impact on the market, and the future of the COBOL programming language.