Bits and Pieces
My Mac Magazine #27, July ’97

On July 1, 1997, in Bits and Pieces, by Grant Cassiday

What is the PC press up to? Find out every month here in Bits & Pieces!

Y2K
Many of you probably saw the June 2 cover story of Newsweek detailing the nightmare of preventing the coming Year 2000 computer crisis (also known as the Millennium Bug). You’d have to read pretty carefully, however, to see any mention of Macintosh systems in the article. The collected stories and sidebars detailing the software bug in the country’s technological infrastructure that render current computer systems unable to discriminate between the years 1900 and 2000 did feature two photos of Macs, but only one sentence addressed Apples directly. In a sidebar explaining that most home PCs won’t be effected (internally) by the turn of the century, a brief statement was made that current Macs recognize dates up to 2040. (A note, however: your Mac system will be fine, but some really old software applications may need to be updated. If you’re concerned, you still have a couple years to contact the software manufacturer.)

BATMAC
Last year during the filming of the new movie Batman and Robin, some hype was made over the inclusion of a souped-up Mac in the film. (Macs are popular props in many movies and TV shows because they’re considered more exotic than their Wintel companions.) When the picture was being made, someone associated with the Mac’s product placement said that after seeing the computer in the movie, “every kid would want one.” Turns out, they will be available, but not every kid can have one. The Batmac was one of the limited edition 20th anniversary Macs being made available by Apple. Yes, they’re cool, but buying one will set you back $7,500. And don’t expect it to come with a recordable CD-ROM like the one in the movie apparently had.

WIRED BARBS
As regular readers of this column know, my job (not writing this column, my paying job!) results in hundreds of issues of computer magazines being mailed to me every month. One that I have not had the pleasure of receiving a free subscription to is Wired. So, when I saw the June ’97 issue of Wired, with its impressive cover art of a large Apple logo encircled with barbed wire, I whipped out $5.00 to purchase and read the article. (As a side note, I should explain the Murphy’s Law effects me as much as anyone. The same week, I received the same issue of Wired for free at the office.)

The article inside was a list of 101 recommendations by cultural and technological elite on ways to save the Mac. Not on the list was requiring everyone to run out and buy one … and actually I didn’t see any that needed repeating here.

In another part of the same issue, however, was a blurb to be treasured: “At the University of Illinois’s recent birthday bash for 2001: A Space Odyssey ‘s HAL, guest of honor Arthur C. Clarke judged a contest to suggest what the world-famous computer’s first words would be today. The winning entry: ‘Good evening, doctors. I have taken the liberty of removing Windows 95 and all references to it from my hard drive.’”

For publishers around the country, a true-life development will make it a bit more important to remove all references to Windows 97. It’s official and accepted now that there will be no Windows 97. The next Microsoft operating system simply will not be ready before 1998 is upon us. Thus, the name is Windows 98. And it will probably be the last version of that operating system … Windows NT is proving more useful in business applications and programming, and Microsoft is expected to begin developing that platform into its standard. This is probably good news for Macs in the workplace. Apple long ago recognized the importance of Windows NT, and as a result, the Mac OS is already on pretty good working terms with the other system. Rhapsody will improve the relationship.

COWS IN THE ORCHARD
It doesn’t take an expert in the computer industry to know that Apple has considerable customer loyalty. Although it is nice on occasion to see that backed up by a new poll. Information Week (May 26) reports that “in a multichoice survey of households that own a computer and would buy another of the same brand… Apple was second, with a 48% approval rate.”

So who was first? Those lovable Holsteins from Gateway, with a 51% rating.

THEY (seem to) REALLY LIKE IT….
Sure, there were a couple of complaints, but overall PC Week liked what it saw when their labs tested the new Mac OS 8 and published the results in their June 16 issue. “After evaluating the Beta 5 version of Mac OS 8, PC Week Labs recommends that administrators upgrade their sites.” Even on the heels of that endorsement, however, was an even friendlier one; Mac OS 8 may be good, but PC Week declares that the coming NeXT/Mac OS called Rhapsody will be even better.

One note for those of us who just don’t budget a new computer every two years: the new version 8 operating system will only be compatible with 68040-based and PowerPC Macs. Not even a 68030 with a PowerPC upgrade card will be enough. Before you buy the upgrade, make sure your hardware is compatible.

Be IN THE NEWS
Many of us were scratching our heads just seven short months ago over Apple’s decision to by NeXT instead of the BeOS. Be seemed to be on something of a roll. BeOS is a completely modern operating system that was quickly winning support from the industry and the Macintosh clone makers, albeit most of it was brilliantly orchestrated (if not sometimes egotistical) public relations aimed at making Apple’s acquisition strategy seem like a no-brainer.

In the May issue of Wired (OK, they sent me the May issue with the June issue), some of the questions are cleared up. “For all its promise, BeOS today lacks major applications like Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop, runs only on PowerPC chips, lacks an interoperable object architecture, and has a host of other issues related to its youth. Meanwhile, Nextstep matches BeOS buzzword for buzzword.”

But only the short-sighted will write off Be so soon: “In several years, Be’s technology will do everything Apple’s Nextstep-based Rhapsody OS will do, and it will do it faster, cheaper, and stabler.” Several years may seem like centuries in cyber-time, but on the other hand, it did take an awfully long time for Apple to move from System 7 to System 8.

MORE POST-MORTEMS FOR OPENDOC
LAN Times (May 26) joined many other industry magazines in bemoaning the cruel fate of what was recently viewed as Apple’s most exciting and advanced technology: OpenDoc, the component technology that was widely recognized as superior to Microsoft’s Active X. But the magazine noted that techies are accepting the premature death and turning their attention to Java. Why? “Java shows signs of catching up with OpenDoc in its capability of creating and supporting truly component-capable applications.” And with recent support by Apple, at least we can rest assured that Java is one developing industry standard in which the Mac will be very much involved.

EYES ON APPLESCRIPT
AppleScript made some news in the beginning of June. As reported in Infoworld (June 9), “Apple… committed to making AppleScript a native, integral part of its Rhapsody operating system…. The company’s main concern in developing AppleScript for Rhapsody is preserving the script context so that users will not have to rewrite their existing scripts, officials said.”

CORPORATE MANEUVERS
Apple is reportedly playing hardball with companies you would expect it to be encouraging… but this is the nature of business. Most of the news of severe business tactics relates to the clone-makers.

First, PC Week gossiper Spencer F. Katt (June 16) claimed that PowerPC chip producer Exponential Technology went under because Apple didn’t support its impressive processors. Power Computing, the successful Mac clone maker and the media’s new favorite member of the Mac family, “had wanted to use the Exponential chip, but without the firmware, the chip was useless to the cloners.”

Next, Computerworld (June 2) reports on a few more scenarios. “Apple insiders said the company is giving itself a leg up on Macintosh clone makers by insisting that it be allowed to certify all new hardware designs.” But Cloner designs using hot new CPUs (the 603e specifically) aren’t receiving approval… and now Apple is getting ready to roll out its own 603e products (which didn’t need approval, of course).

Computerworld also reports that Apple is “trying to strong-arm IBM and Motorola into giving it priority over any other Macintosh clone maker” when it comes to the production of PowerPC chips.

So, what are we to think of all this? Is there bad blood between the Mac makers?

Yes, of course. According to Steve Jobs (as quoted by Computerworld, May 26): “A clone maker is just a leech living off the fact that Apple’s got this business model to make so much money at some level and reap some back at the high end.” Surely this was an off-hand remark muttered to a buddy at a bar late one night? Well… no. Mr. Jobs made this declaration at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference.

NEWS FROM OVERSEAS
If it were solid information, I would have expected to see it in this country, but nonetheless, the British magazine Network News (May 28) declared in a page 4 headline, “Future bleak for Apple CEO.” Drawing on news of the latest top-level resignation of an Apple official (in this case it was George Scalise, senior operations vice president), the magazine concludes that there’s a little too much brain-drain at the company.

Also in the article was a report that Steve Jobs, in reference to the Apple Newton (a product that Scalise was in charge of), stated that Apple “should abandon it as a failure.” Those are the magazine’s words, not a direct quote.

MacToids
To those careful readers and students of English: No, I don’t think ‘stabler’ is an actual word, but I used it in a direct quote.

Steve Jobs, as quoted by Information Week (May 26): “I think it is incredibly stupid for us to believe that for Apple to survive, Microsoft has to fail.” (It would be nice all the same.)

As reported in the May 19 issue of Infoworld, the Macromedia Extreme 3D documentation takes the time and space to point out (twice) to all users of the software that as far as Macromedia is concerned, “Power Macintosh is recommended for professional production work.” One of these ‘suggestions’ comes immediately following a reference to Windows, whose users apparently aren’t considered professionals in the graphic arts. (Well, what did you expect? The company isn’t called PCromedia.)


Grant Cassiday (GBCassiday@aol.com)

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