A HILL OF BEANS IN A BARREL OF APPLES
That’s how you should remember the strategy. That is, the strategy behind the new alliance between Apple/IBM/OpenDoc and Sun Microsystems/Java Beans. Of course, almost all of the industry press covered this event. It was important for a couple of reasons. One is that just last July, many software developers were questioning the level of commitment Apple and IBM were giving to OpenDoc. This new alliance with Sun makes their commitment much more obvious: they’re serious. Another reason is that the alliance is an intriguing shift in strategy for Apple and IBM. As explained in the Sept. 23 issue of Infoworld, because of it, the two companies are now actually steering the developers of applets away from OpenDoc and towards Java Beans, but then encouraging the use of OpenDoc as a container application. That being said, I should humbly point out that I don’t really get the rest of the technical stuff . But I can say that, as we all know, the big question is if this new alliance can compete with Microsoft’s Active X. Maybe. But people aren’t betting the farm on it. It bodes well, though, that while users have been investing a lot of time and money into Active X, and almost none at all in OpenDoc, Java Beans has already attracted a lot of attention.
InformationWeek (Sept. 23) also covered the Doc/Beans story. IW downplayed Java Beans’ current status, saying that the technology “remains little more than a specification.” However, in the same article, positive things were said about IBM’s OpenDoc WebPak as that company charges ahead with its OpenDoc hard sell to developers for OS/2, AIX and Windows. Also, OS/2 Warp version 4.0 includes “support for the OpenDoc object standard.”
And from Web Week (Sept. 23) comes the opinion that the alliance is an indication of “how intent (Apple and Sun) are on finding a way to stave off their common foe, Microsoft.” Web Week points out that a lot of people just want to know if Netscape will join the party. (Netscape says it’s already at the party.)
Network World (Sept. 23) offers this summary of what will come of the Sun/Apple handshake:
–Sun makes Solaris servers work better with Apple’s Macs
–Apple makes OpenDoc work with Sun’s JavaBeans
–Sun makes JavaMedia work with Apple’s QuickTime so that Apple’s QuickTime will run a Java applet.
Now, since there’s a QuickTime plug in for Netscape and a new effort to integrate QuickTime into Windows … does that mean someone using Netscape through Microsoft Windows 95 on an Intel Pentium computer will be able to use IBM’s OpenDoc for Windows architecture to access Sun JavaBeans specifications for running Apple QuickTime movies on the Motorola website? Let’s just pray that those programmer geeks get all of this worked out before they put it on the shelf and tell us to buy it.
FOLLOW THE LEADER?
When it comes to operating systems, Microsoft will apparently follow Apple’s lead no matter how questionable the direction is. The following blurb is from page one of the Sept. 23 issue of Network World: “Microsoft has opted away from its original approach to delivering Cairo — the next ma]or revision of Windows NT — all at once. Instead, the company will release individual components as they are developed.” In order to play the game, take that quote and make the following changes: replace “Microsoft” with “Apple”, “Cairo,, with “Copland”, and “Windows NT” with “MacOS”, and presto! You have a perfect summary of the controversial OS strategy unveiled by Apple at the MacWorld expo two months ago.
PUT YOUR JAVA ON IT
Windows NT Magazine wrapped a WindowsNT Workstation 4.0 application sampler CD into their October 1996 issue. What’s a Windows NT Workstation application Sampler? How should I know? I’m using it as a coaster.
So what’s the deal with WEBTechniques? This magazine, a new one I think, arrives in my office every month and is always full of articles on the ever-changing world of Web publishing and Web site building/managing. So, if Macintosh is such a major presence on the Web and in publishing (and I assure you it is), how come I can never find a mention of Apple, Mac, or even Mac software in this magazine? Suspiciously, even all the screen shots in the publication are Windows 95, and you know that for people working on Web page design, that’s not 100% normal. Despite all this, there is one obvious exception to the rule: the “Home Page” of the magazine, which includes their masthead and letter from the editor, is designed to look like a Netscape window … running on a Mac. (Is anyone home at that page?)
TOO EASY TO USE
Macs used to sell themselves via the “ease of use” argument. Anyone could sit down in front of a Macintosh computer and make it work. They practically ran themselves. AT&T has found out that sometimes they will. As reported by InformationWeek (Sept. 16), the phone company had created a Macintosh version of the WorldNet Internet access service. But passwords for the software “are automatically generated — and registered with the system — without user intervention.” Because the passwords are designed to prevent being deciphered, once they are created, no one, not even AT&T, can retrieve them to figure out what they are. Customers can have AT&T enter another one for them manually, but then the password isn’t much of a secret.
Motorola made a big splash, in both advertising and editorial, with the introduction in September of its new StarMax line of computers. They run off of the PowerPC chip, which is the struggling cross-platform result of the Apple/IBM/Motorola alliance. The huge print ads Motorola ran in many magazines showed two different models of the StarMax side by side, one running the MacOS and the other running Windows NT. According to InformationWeek (Sept. 23), Motorola will be promoting the use of StarMax PCs running the Mac OS hooked into servers running Windows NT. (Thus, there was a 2-page spread of the ad on the inside cover of the October issue of Windows NT Magazine.)
PCWeek gave unusually loud coverage to the Motorola Macs. (Can’t we please just call them Macarolas?) The PCWeek spin was that Mac users “finally got a brand-name alternative for buying clones of Apple” systems. Despite the trouble Motorola has had with breaking into the computer market in the past, they are reportedly trying to obtain the proper Apple licenses to start cranking out PowerBook clones (and presumably, in a departure from IBM’s game plan, they will actually be sold in the U.S.).
Just in case anyone else has been trying to keep track, I felt I should admit I’ve had trouble keeping the names associated with Project X straight. In last month’s column, I implied that Project X was simply the development name for MCF (Meta Content Format) technology. And that is what I had been led to believe during my daily perusals of the industry magazines. Then, when I download my own copy of HotSauce, I just assumed this was the program that allowed me to access MCF sites. This is where my simplicity will probably confuse the more technologically enhanced My Mac readers. They would explain, no doubt as Infoworld did in it’s Sept. 16 issue, that “HotSauce combines MCF with Project X.” Oh. So that means that none of the three is the same as the other, which must mean that the X….
The Downside of Upside
The November issue of Upside Magazine took a patronizing look at why, oh why! that pesky Apple Computer hasn’t folded yet. Turns out, the author explains to the assumed-to-be-confused reading audience, it’s because people are loyal to Macintosh. More importantly, the software developers are loyal. They are “driven by fierce attachment to their home platform and their spirit of independence,” and the computer industry would do well to take note that, “Passion can often accomplish what mere business interest cannot.” And through the whole article there was only one “whoops-meant-it-as-a-compliment” comparison of Apple developers to the Viet Cong.
Computerworld (Oct. 14) announced the coming of the Epic and Hooper line of PowerBooks. Epic will apparently be the man-in-the-street version, costing between $2,000 and $3,500. Hooper will be the souped-up version, costing $4,500 to $6,500 (hope it can drive you to work). Hooper will replace those fiery PowerBook 5300 models which were yanked from the market last year for safety of Mac lovers everywhere.
In the same issue, it is reported that Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space (“the world’s second-largest Macintosh site”) is on the verge of converting to Windows. Mac users at the company have apparently done their best in the past to prevent it, but as a Lockheed spokesman was quoted in magazine as saying, “management already knows what the users want, and they just don’t care to hear it again.”
Finally, in one of the plethora of articles and editorials produced this year on component software, someone has taken the time to acknowledge the existence of OpenDoc. Maybe that’s a little exaggerated, but after watching columnists from PCWeek on down do thoughtful (i.e., opinion of the week) analyses of the various options without mentioning the offering of Apple and IBM, it’s nice to know that OpenDoc may finally be getting some long overdue attention. The award goes to Jeff Shapiro of NetWare Solutions, who takes the time to explain the product in admittedly simple and neutral terms. No comment on his defining OpenDoc as an IBM standard that Apple supports.
RS/Magazine (October 1996) announces that IBM and Motorola Inc. will release the G3 Series of microprocessors, with speeds of 200 MHz, in mid-1997. That speed will be increased to 400 MHz by 1998. The G4 series will come around in 1998 running at 500 MHz and higher. The article points out that the new chips will run software made for older versions of the PowerPC without any problem. Note to Intel users: the next generation of Intel chips will require you to buy all new software.
Internet World has an article devoted to the currently-coolest Macintosh internet software in its November issue. It’s a short article, but covers about 10 programs that can make life on-line fun and includes Web addresses for all of them to help you find the stuff. The most interesting one I hadn’t heard of yet: MacWx, which goes on-line and gets you current weather and forecasts. You can look it up at http://chemgod.slip.umd.edu/~kidwell/weather.html … but this program is “crippleware — you can only get the weather for Washington, D.C., until you pony up the $15 shareware fee.”
TIME IS A ‘CHANGING
When magazines run screen-shots of various programs (these days they’re usually of web pages), it’s always fun to see what platform the screen-shot is from. Usually, because the publishing industry (i.e., the people who write and design the magazines) is overwhelmingly Mac-based, the image will be of an Macintosh OS. TIME Magazine is no exception. The company uses Macintoshes around the world. But beware the cover of TIME’s October 21st issue on the News Battles. That’s a Windows 95 screen being hawked to the public (literally).
NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBE!
I came across two foreign magazines this month that ran reviews of System 8, also known as Copland. PC Expert, a French publication, and I.T. Times, an Asian publication, both did side-by-side comparisons of Windows 95, Windows NT 4.0, OS/2, and Mac OS 8. (For PC Expert, this ran in the September issue, for I.T. Times, the Sept. 21 issue.) If you think they’re jumping the gun a little on the Mac OS 8 review, PC Expert also ran in its comparisons a review of Windows 97. No, I can’t explain. Perhaps it would help if I read French, but I don’t.
Fortunately, I do read English, which, despite the fact that it is circulated for Asian readers, is the language I.T. Times is published in. I don’t know why I.T. Times is reviewing a system that will never actually be released (what with the one-piece-at-a-time approach Apple is now committed to). At any rate, they pointed out that among other things, Copland will include desktop themes, built-in screen savers, and more elaborate help functions. The magazine points out that OpenDoc is a brand new approach to programming and that it will be a superset of Active X, running on Mac OS, Windows, NT, and OS/2. Also pointed out was the fact, unknown to me, that PowerPC chips can run a total of six operating systems: Mac OS, Windows NT, OS/2, AIX, Solaris, and NetWare. Who knew?
Ready for the Swedish quote of the month? In the “Uppsnappat” section of Datateknik (October 1996), this piece about Apple activity was included: “Apple har lagt upp en sajt med sin framtidsstrategi. Adressen ar snitsig: theplan.apple.com. Plannen i sin helhet kan laddas ner i Acrobat-fotmat.” There’s more, but you know I’m not translating it so why bother? (Maybe some of our My Mac readers in Sweden, and I know you’re out there, could help ….) Besides, I was much happier to see next to this Apple blurb in the Swedish magazine my favorite shot from the summer blockbuster Independence Day. (The very disturbing but very dramatic picture of the Statue of Liberty lying on the ground before a backdrop of a burning New York City.) This has nothing that I know of to do with Macintosh, but I couldn’t tell what it was doing in Datateknik either.
Also in Datateknik was this article: “Macintosh fran Motorola.” You can translate that all by yourself.
–Imagine my surprise, as I was happily walking through downtown Chicago on my way to work, when I passed by a Newton store. That’s right, a whole store devoted to Mac’s little brother. I’d never heard of such a thing. And no, I didn’t have time to actually go in…
–Apple CEO Gil Amelio, in answer to Tom Brokaw who asked how Apple could realistically stop Microsoft: “Nuclear weapons.”