Microsoft hopes to prove its commitment to the Macintosh platform once and for all this week at the MacWorld trade show, by unveiling the production version of Internet Explorer (IE) 3.0 for the Mac.
The company will also announce a Mac version of its FrontPage Web page authoring product, which has previously been available only for the Windows platform.
In addition, Microsoft also plans to release a new technology called the ActiveX Part Adapter, which will enable users to run ActiveX components within Apple's CyberDog framework and other OpenDoc-compatible applications. Although Apple and IBM have worked on "component glue" software to make OpenDoc and ActiveX components more compatible, this effort to reciprocate by Microsoft is unexpected.
In New Zealand late last year, Brian Schafer, a Microsoft marketing executive for Internet Explorer, indicated that the company was still inclined to leave aside OpenDoc and concentrate on developing ActiveX for its Web technologies. In the past, Microsoft CEO Bill gates has been openly hostile to OpenDoc.
CyberDog is a set of OpenDoc parts, including a browser, which allows users to open HTML pages from within, as well as embed Java applets into, any application that supports OpenDoc.
Microsoft has been criticized in the past for not focusing enough energy on developing Internet products for the Macintosh platform. In November, the company put out a beta version of IE 3.0 for the Mac. The release came months after IE 3.0 for Windows 95, but did deliver on Microsoft's promise to implement native Mac features such as QuickTime and QuickDraw 3D, and to make the product "look and feel" like a Macintosh application. Its modular structure, giving the user a choice of which Java Virtual Machine to use, has also met with approval.
However, next week's release of IE 3.0 and announcement of FrontPage for the Mac are integral parts of Microsoft's overall cross-platform strategy and Mac users "continue to be an important group" for Microsoft, according to a spokesperson.
According to the Microsoft spokesperson, the Mac version of IE 3.0 will allow users to run Java applets and ActiveX controls in the same way that the Windows 95 version does - although there are a large number of existing ActiveX controls which address the Windows system itself and can never be Mac-compatible.
Microsoft will make IE 3.0 for the Mac available for download over the Internet from its Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/ie/ sometime next week, and it will be available from the Microsoft New Zealand site at http://www.microsoft.co.nz/ shortly thereafter. The company has not announced when the Macintosh version of FrontPage will be available.
The ActiveX Part Adapter, which is being aimed at users of OpenDoc "containers" such as ClarisWorks and users of CyberDog, will also be made available for download on the Web site next week.
One of the first ActiveX components aimed specifically at Mac users - a control called Text Chat, which will allow users to chat over the World Wide Web - will also be released next week.
Microsoft competitor Netscape has had a Mac version of its Navigator 3.0 browser out since June. That software supports Java - and ActiveX components using a plug-in from Microsoft.
In addition, Netscape has been working with Apple since May to restructure Navigator so that it can act as a "container" for OpenDoc applications and be better integrated with the MacOS, according to Apple officials.
Although some commentators have wondered whether Apple's embrace of the Unix-based NextStep system technology for its future OS means the end of the line for OpenDoc, Netscape technical director Marc Andreessen has publicly welcomed Apple's purchase of Next - and called for Apple to put promptness to market ahead of backward compatibility with System 7 applications and services.