Bits and Pieces
My Mac Magazine #17, Sept. ’96

InfoWorld (July 15) reports Netscape and Apple are talking about writing Netscape plug-ins as OpenDoc parts. “Such an agreement could lead to a modular, application-on-demand environment that could make network computers a reality.”

In the same issue, Robert X. Cringely (InfoWorld’s fictional computer industry gossip columnist) reports that IBM, using leverage I didn’t quite understand after reading the column, may manage to force Microsoft into a deal where it supports OpenDoc in order to keep using OLE.

Byte Magazine was very impressed with Power Computing’s new 180-MHz PowerTower Mac clone. Byte gave the computer 4 out of five starts in both Technology and implementation and 5 stars in performance, explaining that running “Mac software at 180 MHz is intoxicating.”

So this is a PC story, so what? OpenDoc is important, and I’m keeping an eye open for reviews of OpenDoc for Windows. Computerworld (July 22) reviewed the product’s OS/2 version and liked it, giving it a grade of “B”. “OpenDoc should be considered by any developer who needs to create reusable components.” The magazine also noted that OpenDoc meets Microsoft’s requirements for Windows 95 certification.

“… Apple forced PowerBook users to buy an inferior system to get the portability they desired.”
-J. Gerry Purdy, PhD (editor-in-chief of Mobile Letter) in Upside (August l996).

Hey, Gerry, I’ll let the inferior system remark slide, because really I’d just like your PhD-editor-in-chief self to tell me this: If someone hates the MacOS, do you really think portability is going to get them to buy a PowerBook? Really? You do?

PCWEEK (in the Aug. 5 issue) previewed the introduction at Macworld Expo of several new Mac clones by Power Computing and UMAX. PCWEEK’s bottom line on the situation: the new clones won’t convert any Wintel users, but they’re speedy and cheap and should be very popular with us Mac folks.

The headline for this piece is lifted from a August 5 cover story in Infoworld: “This week Apple Computer Inc. starts its long road back to respectability…. ” As Infoworld reports, the road is paved with some of the following bricks (which will be laid between now and mid-1997): OpenDoc, System 8, a new and improved PowerBook line, a Windows NT strategy, LiveObjects, true multitasking and multithreading, and possibly “a multiprocessor server running the MacOS for the first time.” More importantly, Infoworld reports rumors that by 1997, “Apple will release an interim version of its OS that will integrate Cyberdog, OpenDoc, QuickTime, and QuickDraw 3D into the OS.” The magazine says early predictions of how these efforts will pan out are mixed … from the damningly negative to the cautiously optimistic.

Since I had such nice things to say last month about PC Magazine and its name-sharing sister publication in Britain, I thought I should include some choice words from their domestic September edition. Editorial writer John C. Dvorak’s column has inspired me to use a greater number of direct quotes than I am usually comfortable with in my column. But he has such a wonderful way with words that it would definitely lose something if I tried to paraphrase. Here are some of his catchiest pontifications concerning Apple and Motorola:
–“Apple looks like an old lady about to croak.”
–“By jumping on the Motorola bandwagon once too often, Apple has turned itself into a dull company making special-purpose machines.”
–“It’s obvious that Motorola has no interest in doing more than journeyman work in microprocessor development for chips designed to go on the desktop.”

Of course, I’m sure if he had known he was wrong about the next statement, he still wouldn’t have changed one word: “Hey, but you’re reading PC Magazine, so you’ve already bet on the winning horse, huh? From the look of things over here, your horse will be finishing by itself.”

What inspired all of this Khrushchev-esque podium banging? Development of the MMX Pentium, scheduled for 1997 release. Dvorak states that “it will quadruple performance, leaving Motorola with its thumb up its PowerPC and Apple watching.”

So, to Mr. Dvorak, I have a message: read the August 12 article in Communications Week about Motorola’s soon to be released G3 series of microchips. That’s what I did, and I felt much better. Yes, everyone with a computer will have to deal with hardware that gets faster and faster, not just our brethren the PC users. Starting next year, the first G3 will run at 400-MHz. Late 1998 will see the introduction of 500-MHz chips. Those wacky Motorolans. Now, don’t go breaking any laws of physics! (You know how picky electrons are about the width of their pathways!)

I just couldn’t help noticing that the photo of Gil Amelio that Network World ran with an article on Apple in its August 12 issue was a scary looking picture indeed. At any rate, the article was about how Apple has reorganized its priorities, pushing back the release of CHRP-based systems by around one year. The original release date was this year; now it is the second half of 1997. The magazine quotes Amelio as saying, “It would be nice (to release CHRP this year) but … that is not as big a problem as shipping the next operating system software release, the next version of Cyberdog and working on OpenDoc.”

System 7.5.3 Upgrade 2.0.6 Part B lst of 4.2 4/14/97
No, that’s not a real operating system upgrade name … but about the first half of it is.Most of you probably know that there was some confusion over the most recent batch of 7.5 upgrades. Well, for better or for worse, Communications Week reports in its August 12 issue that Apple will release the various parts of Copland as they are finished instead of just releasing a complete product. The plan was made public at the Macworld Expo in Boston. The first parts of Copland to arrive will “address Internet and video technology, (and) are scheduled to be released early next year.”

The August 5 Computerworld gave page 2 coverage to the joint push by IBM and Apple Computer to convince the world OpenDoc has not lost its momentum and does have third-party vendors building components.

In the same issue, an article appeared explaining the fight that is brewing between Lotus and its parent company, IBM. IBM wants Lotus to embrace OpenDoc for its software which would give OpenDoc a major boost industry-wide. But one senior-level employee at Lotus put it this way: “We don’t support it, and we won’t support it. It is important to IBM but not to us. OpenDoc is the sequel to a movie that never aired.” I don’t know a whole lot about IBM’s corporate structure, but I’m betting Lotus gets an invitation from IBM to shut up and program.

The July 29 issue of Computerworld had several Mac-related pieces. Sharing the cover page headlines were an article on Apple CEO Gilbert Amelio and the possible Mac embrace of Windows.

In the Amelio article, Computerworld insists that so far the new CEO has done what needed to be done to stop the company’s financial hemorrhaging. And after momentarily recalling his work at National Semiconductor Corp. as incomplete (see last month’s mention of Business Week), was optimistic about his management style and changes to Apple’s corporate culture.

The more important of the two articles was the in-depth exploration of rumors concerning Apple working into Copland the ability to directly run applications for other operating systems including Windows, NT, and Unix. Many companies in the industry have been approached by Apple with these plans, but Apple denies they exist. The reason is because of the serious implications of such a move. First, Apple would have to license Windows systems from Microsoft. Second, the business community is quick to ask why, if software makers can make Windows programs that Macs can use, would they bother making Mac programs any more? And if Macs are adapting to Windows, why buy a Mac machine? Just buy one made for Windows.

Web Week (August 5) reports (not quite so sarcastically) that Microsoft is raving about their own decision to make Internet Explorer 3.0 compatible with non-Windows 95 platforms. This includes Macintosh, Windows NT, and Unix. (They’re getting a little help writing all that Unix code, though.) Unfortunately for civilization, Explorer will demand compatibility with Active X, the direct competitor of OpenDoc, which will then be humorlessly loaded into computers with all the above platforms. Of course, keep in mind that Explorer will become the default browser of Netcom, America Online, CompuServe, MCI communications, AT&T, and over 2,000 “Internet service providers with whom Microsoft has distribution deals.”

Several publications took time this month to note the popularity of Power Computing’s booth at the recent Macworld Expo in Boston. Computerworld (August 12) was among them, saying that hundreds of people took advantage of the opportunity to bungee jump from the 225 foot tower the company put up. The Mac clone maker was promoting it’s new 225-MHz 604e PowerPC Mac clone. Computerworld notes even visitors from Microsoft thoroughly enjoyed themselves at Power Computing’s booth.

They liked the idea, they liked the price … but PC World (September 1996) thinks the new Power Mac 7200/120 PC Compatible is a little slow. And of course, they’re right. Running Windows on a computer that isn’t bursting with blazing speed can be very annoying, especially for someone used to using Windows on a modern Pentium, which in theory is the exact type of person who would be using this Mac. (The Pentium processor that comes in this Mac is only 100-MHz.) They also made one other point which I found myself agreeing with: Apple made a bad choice in trying to make up for the mouse button problem. (Macs ship with a one-button mouse, Windows software is built for a two-button mouse.) Apple’s solution was to simply assign the key on the numeric keypad the same function as the right button on a Windows mouse. Great. So guess which key won’t finish a mathematical equation for you? …

PC WEEK’s (fictional) gossip columnist Spencer F. Katt reports: “… a very popular educational-software company has become so disgusted with Apple that it has asked investors for more than $20 million to convert its entire product line from the Mac to Windows IT .” (August 12)

And this is not exactly an industry secret, I’m sure, but it was news to me…. It turns out that Jim Martin, CEO of Infoworld, was the man in charge of Macworld for about a dozen years. He also helped start little Macworld s in countries all over the globe.

Leave a Reply