In the years since the World Wide Web went mainstream, I’ve read about many people who have been credited with creating the new medium. TIME Magazine (May 19) most recently credited Tim Berners-Lee with being the man behind it all. “Berners-Lee developed the three technical keystones of the Web: the language for encoding documents (HTML, hypertext markup language); the system for linking documents (HTTP, hypertext transfer protocol); and the www.whatever system for addressing documents (URL, universal resource locator).” The fascinating new piece of the story for me, however, was that Berners-Lee did it all on a NeXT computer. “Sitting on Berners-Lee’s desk, it would become the first Web content ‘server,’ the first node in this global brain.” With a history like that, coupled with the tremendous influence of Macintosh on the way everyone (including Windows users) uses computers, it’s not hard to imagine the NeXT/Mac alliance leading to something big.
This piece isn’t exactly about the Year 2000 Crisis for the world’s computers, but it’s a date problem that caught my eye. The reason it caught my eye is the year 1904. For as long as I’ve owned Mac’s, they’ve seemed fond of occasionally pretending certain files were created way back in the middle of the (Theodore) Roosevelt Administration. I don’t know why. Norton Utilities didn’t care, it just fixed the problem file by file. Now comes word (reported in the May 12 issue of Information Week) that the year 1904 is becoming an obvious sign of an unwelcome bug in the system clock of PowerBook 3400’s. Apparently, “resetting the machine’s battery-power gauge also mysteriously resets the system’s clock back to 1904.” This problem is compounded by users of the Claris Organizer software that comes with the 3400’s; Organizer diligently sets about reorganizing your schedules to match the new date.
BROWSER WARS- THE MAC VERSION
NetGuide (June 1997) took a long hard look at the Macintosh versions of the world’s two most popular browsers, Netscape’s Communicator and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. The resulting decision was that for Mac users, Netscape is the way to go. Netscape, says the magazine, is showing a clear commitment in the development of its products. Microsoft is too, of course, but in the world of browsers, Microsoft’s commitment seems to be to develop Windows products first. NetGuide declares, “To get the best Mac software, browsers included, Microsoft isn’t where you want to go today.” Can’t wait to see what impact Microsoft’s new Mac development group has.
Information Week reported in its May 5 issue that IBM will be the builder of a new ultra-portable laptop Mac. Code-named Comet, it will be “powered by a 200-MHz PowerPC 603e processor, weigh less than five pounds, and will be priced at more than $3,000.” Apple wants to tap into IBM’s success in this market, and the Comet will reportedly end up looking like something of a cross between the IBM ThinkPad and Apple’s PowerBook. Although this deal is not necessarily a big surprise, what is new about it is that the Comet computers were not originally envisioned as products to be sold in the U.S., a market that is now part of the plan.
You may have heard that Mr. Larry Ellison (head guy at Oracle) has decided that, no, he doesn’t think he will buy out Apple computer and take over the company after all. In a related story, as reported in David Coursey’s Computerworld (May 12) column, 600 attendees (in April) of the Internet Showcase conference who took part in a computerized audience polling Q&A session had these responses to a couple of questions:
Question: Should Larry Ellison buy Apple?
Result: 53% said yes.
Question: Would you work for Larry Ellison?
Result: 87% said no.
“When someone commented that he didn’t realize 13% of the crowd worked at Oracle, another person chimed in, ‘No, it’s 20%!’ That got a big laugh.”
PC WEEK WRITER CAN’T BEAR TO WATCH WHAT’S NeXT
Peter Coffee, columnist for PC Week, took time in his April 28 column for a couple of I-told-you-so’s and here-we-go-again’s. “For almost a decade,” he writes, “I’ve been shouting the news about NeXT into what seems like a canyon-size void.” NeXT, points out Coffee, was the first to market with a “multithreaded operating system and the object-oriented development suite.” Component architecture, the 1988 vision of NeXT, has since become the everyday reality of ActiveX and JavaBeans. Coffee expresses his wish that current and future innovations that flow from NeXT technology get a better introduction into the world of computing.
And for those people who have to fight off comments about the Mac OS not being as stable or as advanced as the fleet of Microsoft products, Coffee has this to say in his May 5 column: “… Macs require a tiny fraction of the support demanded by Windows PCs. Typical was the help desk specialist at a major federal agency. Almost half of the agency’s machines are Macs, but he handles those with half of his time and does Web site work for the rest of the day — while four other technicians spend all of their time on Windows.”
A BRAND NEW BOX
As reported by Infoworld (April 28) Metrowerks has prevented a lot of headaches by developing CodeWarrior Latitude, a technology that while in development was code-named Green Box. (‘Boxes’ are parts of the upcoming Rhapsody system in development at Apple that will incorporate the NeXT operating system. The Blue Box is the Mac OS, the Yellow Box is the NeXT/OpenStep technology.) CodeWarrior “will provide a migration path for existing Macintosh applications to the OpenStep architecture. Working closely with Apple, Metrowerks will bridge Rhapsody’s Blue Box Mac OS to the Yellow Box OpenStep APIs.”
THE STATE OF THE RACE
I happily reported in a recent column that the computer industry thoroughly tested the new MMX Pentiums against the speediest Macs and discovered that the Macs (Apples and clones) were pretty much all faster. According to PC Week (May 5), it’s not such an easy call any more. The new Pentium II’s with MMX technology, teamed up with Windows NT, still can’t out-race the Macs in graphics applications. But “when it came to running common business applications,” the new Intel’s came out ahead.
Gossiper Spencer F. Katt reports in his April 21 PC Week column that the future of Apple was so uncertain back in the days of Larry Ellison’s trial balloons that the organizers of PC Expo listed one of their keynote speakers as simply “a top Apple executive.” Katt didn’t explain whether a) the organizers weren’t sure what top executive they would get because of takeover rumors or b) if they had a particular person in mind and simply didn’t know what their title would be by the time of the Expo because of Apple’s internal executive shuffling since the NeXT acquisition.
Grant Cassiday (GBCassiday@aol.com)