Bits and Pieces
My Mac Magazine #20, Dec ’96

While the whole computer magazine industry was reporting on the ‘rumors’ about Apple’s negotiations to take over Be’s operating system as a replacement for Copland and the savior of the Mac, there wasn’t as much coverage as you might expect. That’s because, at this point, most magazines still have to call this whole story a rumor. Apple and Be refuse to acknowledge that any talks are going on at all, despite several of the magazines emphatically quoting sources inside the negotiations, reporting on locations of meetings, and detailing various methods of the Be OS/MacOS integration. And, surprisingly, there has been less editorializing than I’d expect, although most of the opinions expressed by typing heads of the industry seem favorable.

Computerworld (November 11) was one of the publications to smack the story on its front page, stating simply that Apple is “hashing out a deal” with Be. Some of the specific issues Computerworld touched on:
• Compatibility with current software: “Several users interviewed last week shrugged off the trade-off, and developers were enthusiastic.” Enthusiastic about the lack of compatibility? Yes, apparently … Computerworld explains that many developers think it will be a short-lived problem, circumvented by “emulation or by using the coming (CHRP) systems due out early next year.”
• The release date: “If everything goes according to the tentative schedule, users would get the hybrid system in the middle of next year.”

Computerworld says Apple critics think the idea of taking over the Be OS is “brilliant,” and that Mac users may just have to bite the compatibility bullet and go along.

So, about the impact of rumors….

The November 11 issue of InformationWeek seemed to be taking a different approach to interpreting the rumors about Apple and Be. Quoting Apple chief operating officer Marco Landi as saying, “We are not an OS company. We’ve lost that battle,” the magazine explains that Apple will buy the Be OS so it can give up the Mac OS and focus on building a “significant software business.”

Infoworld (October 28) reports that the rumors convinced the Mac development community to act. The developers are “gearing up if such a move does occur; more than 1,000 developers have started working with the Be OS.” Also, Power Computing is supposed to announce plans that it will bundle the Be OS on it’s Power PC computers along with the Mac OS. Umax will apparently follow Apple’s lead.

Infoworld followed up in the November 11 issue by explaining the continuing status of the story: completely true and totally denied.
• “Sources close to the company insist that an agreement in principle has been reached for Apple to acquire Be or portions of its technology.”
• “Company representatives denied that Apple was abandoning its Copland OS ….”
• “Apple had no comment…”
However, Infoworld does make clear that Apple is expected to reveal all its OS plans this January.

Computerworld (this time in the November 4 issue) tried to empathize with the Mac users of the world by quoting one user’s comments: “You hear a lot of things about Apple, [such as] they are going to buy the Be OS to replace the Mac OS. Then you hear that’s not true. Then there are rumors that, going forward, a new Mac OS will not be backward-compatible. Then someone else says that’s not true.”

The problem is not the rumors themselves, but the people starting them. Apple has gotten just as much press lately about its talks with the makers of Be OS as for its own statements that later Apple labels BS. Press releases have been flying in recent weeks clarifying what the CEO said or restating what a Vice President said or re-spinning what a representative had spun the day before.

Even worse, some of it seems to be answering questions no one cares about any more. Exhibit A: This excerpt from a letter written by Christopher J. Escher (Vice President, Corporate Communications, Apple Computer, Inc.) to Business Week :

Dear Editor:

Randall Stross’ Oct. 28 article, “Question for Apple: To Be or Not to Be?” recounts the occasion when Apple Chairman and CEO Dr. Gilbert Amelio waved a Mag-Lite flashlight “admiringly” during an employee meeting. Sounds reasonable enough. Only problem is that Dr. Amelio has never been seen in possession of a flashlight, Mag-Lite or otherwise, at an employee gathering. Though it might seem a somewhat trivial issue…

You’re right, it does seem trivial. Because it is. The time to address that rumor would have been six months ago when it started circulating, accompanied by stories that Apple was going to raise prices of their computers through the roof and cater only to a niche market of artists and publishers. Now is the time to respond to the rumors Business Week was clearly addressing in the article in question. (Hint: refer back to the article’s title.)

Now, for the good news…..

Byte Magazine (December 1996) gave an excellent review to IBM’s newest version of OpenDoc for Windows 95 and Windows NT. The component software got 5 out of 5 stars for technology and 4 out of 5 for implementation. Accompanying the reviews was a sidebar explaining that the competition between Active X and OpenDoc may (happily) amount to nothing, with OpenDoc winning by default. OpenDoc, the component strategy developed by IBM and Apple, can embed Microsoft Active X parts and run them just like any other part, making OpenDoc a more universal standard.

Also, Byte Magazine in November reviewed a new OpenDoc component called WAV. Yes, I too thought this was a reference to some type of cross-platform sound file program, but WAV is actually a word processor for OpenDoc. Byte liked it so much, another 5 out of 5 stars for technology and 4 out of 5 for implementation were handed out.

By the way, OpenDoc has been renamed Live Objects. I wasn’t paying attention, so I don’t know when or why, but writing about the technology in his Infoworld “Down to the Wire” column (Oct. 21), Nicholas Petreley also leans toward letting OpenDoc be the major player in the component world. “Java lacks the document-centric component technology in Live Objects…. Active X (does also) and wouldn’t be a good candidate even if it could (perform the tasks of Live Objects).”

Maybe it’s a good sign that Web Week (November 4) buried the news that ActiveX for Macintosh has been released in a two-sentence blurb on page 46. The ActiveX Software Development Kit for Macintosh will let programmers write ActiveX controls for Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. Apparently the OpenDoc people at Apple don’t mind. I was surprised to read the following in the October 28 issue of Infoworld: “Apple officials have welcomed ActiveX….” (Huh?) “Said one Open Doc developer within Apple …’I don’t think it’s an easy cross-platform environment to develop to.'” (Oh.) Apparently, ActiveX for Mac is being treated like a sincere diplomatic effort by Microsoft at cross-platform compatibility that’s nice to have on record but not good for very much real work.

Also receiving a lot of good press this past month was Apple’s trip back into the land of profits … $25 million in the company’s fourth fiscal quarter. That’s a quick turn after the second quarter’s $740 million loss. But, as Informationweek reports, Apple is still having “trouble meeting demand” for many of its products.

They’re not the only ones. Computerworld (November 4) ran an article explaining that Power Computing has “estimated the order backlog to be about $100 million.” Ironically, many customers are turning to Apple to fill the gap on some of those shortages.

But Apple has no time to let heavy demand translate into comfortably profitable prices. The company continues to slash prices on Power Macs and Performas to stay competitive with the ocean of Intel-powered PCs. Infoworld reported in November that Apple cut prices “between $500 and $800 off its business oriented Power Macintosh line.”

PowerBooks have also been back in the news. This was partly because of shortages of new editions, as InformationWeek reported in its October 28th issue (“supplies of the 1400 will be limited until year’s end …. PowerBooks have been nearly impossible to get in recent months”). But mostly because the new editions are finally here.

Byte (December) reports that the 1400 “catches up to other notebook designs with regard to hardware (and) adds some unique design touches that make it stand out.” Byte also likes the price (basic systems for $2,500). Infoworld chimes in with the headline “Portables, desktops, and high-speed processors have more to offer at lower prices,” and notes that Umax will be expanding its C600 series of PowerBooks soon.

PC Week had a lot to say about technological advances in Power PC technology in its October 21 issue. “Blazing speed, easy serviceability and attractive prices mark the latest crop of 604e PowerPC-based Macintosh clones.” Doing that special PC Week lab thing that they do, they established that the “Power PC still out paces Pentium pro in graphics tests.” And they were testing not just Apple Macs, but Umax, Power Computing, and DayStar Macs as well. Byte did a similar test in its November issue, resulting in no less than six different models of Apple PowerMacs and Power Computing clones clocking in ahead of a 200-MHz Pentium Pro. So for any new Mac users out there, welcome to the family, let me introduce you to our pain: Macs are faster, easier to use, and cost the same as the Windows/Intel family that outsells them 9 to 1.

Interestingly, after all this talk of the speed of graphics on Macs, the other major Macintosh article in the same issue of PC Week was an interview with (another) vice president at Apple, Carlos Montalvo. The discussion is about Apple’s biggest success in its competition with Microsoft: multi-media and interactive media technologies. Apple is way ahead of the game in establishing its own products (like QuickTime, QuickDraw, and QuickTime VR) as the standards for the industry.

I’m willing to bet that there are less than 5 My Mac readers who would be on the subscription list for Network VAR, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a cover story from this very technical book on AppleTalk. The cover copy read, “Often we forget that (Apple) laid the foundations for much of networking today.” Inside, the article closes with “We wish other products were as simple. Then again, if everything were simple in networking, we all would be reading the want ads.” (At this point, let me direct your attention back to the “let me introduce you to our pain” comment two paragraphs up.)

Windows NT joined the Network VAR in surprising me with its lengthy article on weaving Macintoshes into a network. In this case, of course, the article was a how-to for networks operating from Windows NT 4.0. Fortunately, there was no inflammatory anti-Apple name calling or snide editorial remarks begging for a sarcastic response … at least not in that particular article.

Several pages later, however, the Windonistas show their true colors. “…Apple will try hard to persuade us that System (or whatever it is this month) is just the ticket for a symmetrical multiprocessing Apple server. Or is that System 8? … Never mind. The resolution will become clear as the letters are carved into Apple’s tombstone.”

Ha. Shows what they know. System was replaced by 7.5.5 like a month ago!

You see, probably the most interesting thing about the attention the Mac OS was getting this month was all the articles being written in the really technical magazines you and I would never read. Usually, these magazines are so completely owned by Microsoft (or so completely dedicated to a platform like Unix), that Macintosh systems are a non-issue. But last month yet another too-complicated-to-be-even-mildly- interesting-to-anyone-who-doesn’t-know-what-the-title-of-the-magazine-means magazine called RS/Magazine, there was a lengthy review of Motorola’s entry into the Macintosh clone market. Actually, it was a set of three articles. The first was a straightforward explanation of the new StarMax line of Macarola’s, the second was definitely a different article but to the unsophisticated reader (me) seemed pretty much like the first, and the third was a “PowerPC Update … Keeping Tabs on PowerPCs.” Looks like plans to have the PowerPC happily humming along at 500-MHz in the not too distant future have attracted some attention.

Inter@ctive Week (October 21) had an article that shattered any myths I might have harbored regarding what many of us might assume is the best thing about being an actual Apple employee: having direct access to all the newest Mac products. Apparently, Apple has moved its Apple Company Store to the company intranet. “Rather than simply throw out unsold merchandise, Apple discounts the older models (of hardware) for its 8,000 employees.” The program of off-loading old, outdated Macs is apparently a great success. Hmmmm.

• Well, their office suite may be the number one seller among Mac users, but Microsoft isn’t planning a very sweet deal for those of us using 680×0 Macs. Microsoft Office 97 will, according to InformationWeek (October 14) be for PowerMacs only. (Hey, by the way, I never really noticed an Office 95 for Macs ….)

• From the same magazine comes this month’s Gil Amelio (CEO of Apple ) quote. This time it’s the boss man’s comments on automation causing white-collar layoffs: “I don’t know about mass layoffs. Well, I do know about mass layoffs, but….”

• Infoworld was promoting the results of the IntelliQuest Business Influencer Study in readership frequency, which named it the number three publication in this confusing category. Congrats. And whatever the significance of the Study is, it was nice to see that Macworld came in #2. PC Week came in at only #17. PC Magazine came in at a most unimpressive sounding #21. The big surprises? Golf Magazine came in at #12. The trophy for #1, however, goes to National Geographic. (If I pretend that this news has a place in My Mac, will that make it so?)

• Three of the most psychotic programs on TV were happily displaying Macs in their programs during the past month: Millennium, the X-Files, and Profiler. And on the big screen (in the movie Ransom), Mel Gibson’s character receives via his PowerBook the modern-day equivalent of a ransom note from the psychos who kidnapped his son.” Fear not. If this seems like questionable product placement, the forces of good will show their faith in Mac next summer when a much-hyped appearance by Macintosh will occur in the movie Batman and Robin ; Batgirl, it seems, prefers Performas.

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