ORACLE SPEAKS TO APPLE’S FUTURE
Computerworld was allowing itself the freedom of public punditory discord in April. A page 2 letter from the editor read “Go for it, Larry.” The reference is to Larry Ellison, President and CEO of Oracle. Larry recently launched a trail balloon into the swirling crosswinds of Wall Street traders and the Silicon Valley press concerning a recurring dream he has of taking over Apple and saving the company from its frightful management nightmare. Computerworld’s editor thinks the situation is desperate enough, and Apple technology good enough, to merit a dramatic takeover of the company. To Ellison, editor Paul Gillin says, “You and your friend Steve Jobs are dripping with vision … You’ll be a hero.”
The commentary on page 123, however, is a little bit different: “How about if I comment on Ellison’s plan to drive Apple into the ground.” One theory on this page is that pals Ellison and Jobs are always trying to one-up each other in all manner of things … and a hostile takeover of Apple is just another power wedgie, Jobs would have to call his buddy Boss. The commentary goes on to accuse Ellison of just wanting attention. “If Ellison really wants Apple, he just has to sit down and cut the check …. But corporate raiding — well, that gets a guy noticed.”
Apple may have gutted its P.R. department in the last round of corporate bloodletting, but no one can accuse clone maker Power Computing of not getting good press this past month. Among the prizes was a two-page article in Business Week (April 21, 1997) profiling the leaders of the company and their success so far. There were a few brow-raising descriptions of the corporate culture (employees are required to wear combat fatigues on Fridays), but there was nothing approaching the chiding or criticism that accompanies the typical Apple article.
For the first time in a year of looking, Federal Computer Week (for our geeks in uniform) had a Mac-related article in it. The April 14 article detailed Power Computing’s new marketing push to get itself established in the government market.
From Computerworld (March 31) comes this note of praise: “With the delivery of its PowerTower 250, Power Computing has bested Apple at least six times in delivering the fastest Mac OS systems to users.” The article closes with notes on noises from NASA about maybe not buying its Macs from Apple in the future. (It should be pointed out, however, that Apple is apparently ready to introduce its 250 MHz system this summer.)
PC Week jumped on the Power Computing bandwagon with an article the same week. Bottom line: the company’s coming out with new Macs, new technologies, and a new look at lower prices. In addition, their corporate cycle time has been improved to speed up the delivery of products, their customer service has been beefed up, and they’ve added “hundreds of field corporate salespeople who will act as a single point of contact for customers.” And to top it off, Power Computing is planning on producing the first portable Mac clone next year. Apple just can’t buy positive press like that.
It was big news all over computing land last month that Apple has decided to dump OpenDoc as a part of its technology plan. Why big news? Because it looked to the Wintel world that OpenDoc was actually a good cross-platform technology that deserved a chance to challenge Microsoft’s ActiveX technology. That and the fact that it was yet another result of Apple’s recent 4,000-employee layoff. One of the publications reporting the story was Web Week (March 24) which noted that, for the record, other technologies like CyberDog were also dropped. OpenDoc partner IBM will now focus on Java Beans as an alternative component architecture.
PC Week (March 24), in an article titled “Requiem for OpenDoc’s Compound Failure,” gave a detailed history of the alarming setbacks OpenDoc suffered at the hands of its creators (who for once seemed better at marketing a technology than making it). Novell was one of the original partners; in the PC Week story, it come off as the main villain for failing to live up to important agreements with IBM and Apple to work on developing OpenDoc for Windows.
However, Inforworld’s fictional gossip columnist Robert X. Cringely has an interesting tale to tell in the March 31 issue of the magazine. “Developers on the project are said to be pooling resources in an attempt to spin the technology out of Apple and make a new company around it.” A workable plan for such a business is rumored to be even a more difficult goal.
GOSSIP MONGERS (Checking in with the computer industry’s gossip columnists)
PC Week’s Spencer F. Katt couldn’t resist spitting up this furball: “Apple CEO Gil Amelio wants to displace Apple’s R&D group to relocate top management’s offices. The reason? A better view. The total cost? A cool $1.5 million.”
The Katt also had two other interesting trees to climb in the March 10 issue. The first states “that Ellen Hancock really does want to bail out of Apple, but all the good golden parachutes have already been doled out to other execs.” The second explains that the web site BozOS, which is dedicated to mocking the Mac OS and is located at www.bozos.com, has been contacted by lawyers of the not-so-amused Bozo the Clown. It may be that Bozo is more worried about his name than Mac’s, but either way, you go clown.
Infoworld’s Robert X. Cringely exposed what may have been an accidental April Fools joke on America Online. You may remember the service’s controversial joke last year (declaring in its news headlines that extra-terrestrial life had actually been discovered in the Jupiter borough of our solar system). This year on April 1, “if you entered the keyword April Fool, AOL whisked you to Version 3.0 of AOL for Macintosh.”
In Newton news, Cringely reports (March 31) that “Apple continues to give resources to the Newton group — all part of a plan to fatten it up for market. If the Newton Team goes on the block, Sun is rumored to be a likely buyer.”
Government Computer News’s R. Fink played up the irony of Apple laying off so many employees while NeXT seems to be hiring so many. Fink thinks it’s beginning to look a lot less like Apple took over NeXT than the other way around. (Infoworld had called the takeover NeXT’s “stealth acquisition of Apple Computer” in the March 17 issue.) But, the R. thinks that Steve Jobs is agreeing to see ex-Apple employees first for NeXT jobs.
Datamation columnist Peter de Jager, after writing on the computer industry for 10 years, outted himself in the April issue of the magazine: “I’m a card-carrying Mac bigot …. The reason should be obvious to the world, but it obviously isn’t: The Mac system is simply a better system.” Interestingly, he has made this revelation in an attempt to clear something up about Macs and the Year 2000 Crisis (in which all the world’s Wintel computers will assume that the day after December 31, 1999 is January 1, 1900, thus plunging the world into a financial and informational crisis).
You see, word is getting out that Macs, unlike their Windows counterparts, do know the difference between the last year of Queen Victoria’s reign and the last year of President Clinton’s; their internal chronometers will simply click the year from 1999 to 2000. Unfortunately, as de Jager points out in his column, this is not the case with all Mac software. Some older version of popular programs, like Quicken and Excel, just may show some strange behavior as the millennium turns.
On another Y2K note, Information Week (March 31) reprinted the following quote from a speech William Ulrich, the president of the Tactical Strategy Group, gave at the Year 2000 Conference and Expo. The topic was the coming crisis. The quote: “If you can sleep at night, you don’t understand the problem.”
BLACK HELICOPTERS AND SUCH
I don’t want people to think I’m out to get anyone …. I know I use more than a little space repeating the outrageous Mac musings of John C. Dvorak that are bound to make people question his sanity. But how can you pass this stuff up? Even if it turns out to be true in the end, no one else in the computer publishing industry gets material like this past his editor. Dvorak’s latest theory (published in his monthly back-page column in the British version of PC Magazine this April): Apple and Microsoft are secretly developing a “plan to make and market a PC-compatible Mac running Windows 97.”
Dvorak has laid out the whole scenario in remarkable detail. Some more pieces:
But wait! There’s more. Alert My Mac reader Jonathan Miller, who actually gets to read Macintosh-friendly magazines instead of the Wintel hostility I read every month, sent in this note: “I find your occasional remarks about John Dvorak very interesting especially in light of the fact that he used to write a column for MacUser magazine a few years back, as I am sure you are aware…. ” I must admit I was unaware. So what happened to this Dvorak guy?
The newly released Newton 2000 has been getting very positive reviews from the PC press … in part because it has enough power that it may be of use to some businesses. The one downside often noted was the price: $1,000 dollars is getting a little too close to the price of low end notebooks. Among those magazines doing reviews was Byte. Byte awarded the Newton 2000 four out of five stars in each of its three review categories: Technology, Implementation, and Performance.
Grant Cassiday (GBCassiday@aol.com)