Apple breaking away from in-house only policy

Apple's chief technology officer has called for more discipline within the company and more use of technology from outside it.

Showing a biting irreverence to Apple's history as an industry maverick, the company's chief technology officer has called for more discipline within Apple and more use of technology from outside the company.

Acknowledging that "Apple is famed for living in its own reality-distortion field", the company has to focus more on getting products to market faster and on time, says Ellen Hancock, who has been with Apple for about four months.

Breaking from a past in which Apple most often opted to use its own technology over others, the company is now embarking on a strategy to expand its use of partners as sources of technology, she says.

"It's very clear that the company has to ruthlessly and relentlessly drive out the 'not invented here' syndrome," she says. "We need to begin working more closely with alliances and we have to develop the discipline to meet our commitments."

Calling it the "breakout strategy", Hancock says that Apple will focus on interoperability with other technologies. "Building bridges to other platforms is not the customer's job, it's ours," she says.

An early fruit of the plan is a pending deal to source a coprocessor called TriMedia from Philips Semiconductors as part of a plan to boost multimedia authoring on Power Macintoshes, she says.

In the past Apple would have designed its own custom ASIC chip instead of sourcing it from a vendor, according to Dan Monahan, worldwide product marketing manager for the Power Macintosh.

Perhaps the largest area of focus for the "not invented here" strategy will be the forthcoming MacOS System 8 and the developers behind it.

Hinting that developers have been managed too loosely in the past, Hancock says that they will now be "held accountable" to meeting the January and July deadlines for releases of the MacOS System 8.

The new operating system will incorporate other vendors' technologies, she says.

"We are evaluating options to either make or buy components of the MacOS 8," she says. "In the spirit of the new open Apple we are looking outside; there are some very exciting technologies out there and we are considering incorporating them into MacOS 8."

Responding to a rash of recent press reports that Apple would buy or partner with upstart Be for access to its BeOS, Hancock says many of the stories she has seen were focused on just one of the options Apple was considering.

"But you should know that not everyone that we're talking to is talking to you," she says.

One analyst questions the strategy of trying to merge components from other vendors with the existing MacOS kernel. "Only so much can be laid on an architecture that was really not built to handle it," says Chris Le Tocq, director & principal analyst at Dataquest.

"I think they need to bring in a new kernel, a new OS from outside," he says, adding that the BeOS would be well-suited to and would largely offer backward compatibility with the existing OS.

But if Apple were to use it as the core, many of the company's current developers might leave the company, he says.

Hancock, meanwhile, remains hopeful. "A year from now I want us to be judged by two things: Were we open to new ideas and did we deliver the customers expectations?," she says.

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