Apple and Microsoft find Net common ground

Microsoft is getting serious about Internet development for the Macintosh, opening a Silicon Valley centre that will concentrate on developing Internet Explorer 2.0 and 3.0 for the Macintosh.

In the first concrete sign of a technology rapprochement between Apple and Microsoft, Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft is getting serious about Internet development for the Macintosh. It has opened a Silicon Valley centre that will concentrate on developing Internet Explorer 2.0 and 3.0 for the Macintosh, while working with a number of smaller companies to identify standards for Internet development for the Macintosh.

As part of that commitment, Internet Explorer for the Macintosh will support Apple's OpenDoc component architecture and will work natively with files built around Cupertino, California-based Apple's core Internet and multimedia technologies, including QuickTime, QuickTime VR and QuickDraw 3D, says Don Bradford, general manager of Microsoft's Internet programmes and tools division for cross-platform development.

At the same time, Microsoft will continue to support its own technologies, such as ActiveX and the Java virtual machine for the Macintosh that it is developing in conjunction with Metrowerks. It will also support other technologies such as DirectX and ActiveMovie on the Macintosh. "We can give Mac users a window, as it were, for Windows technology," Bradford says.

Microsoft is also a charter member of an industry alliance designed to promote new and standard technologies for the Macintosh on the Internet. Dubbed the Macintosh Internet Developers Association, or the MIDAS Alliance, the effort is designed to increase development of Internet applications that will work on the Macintosh platform. In addition to Microsoft, members of the MIDAS Alliance include Apple, Netscape, Adobe, Metrowerks, Macromedia and UserLand Software.

Although Microsoft's initial efforts are focused on developing its own Internet products for the Macintosh, sources indicated the two companies are also seeking ways to integrate some of their competing technologies. A number of areas are currently being discussed at "very high levels in both companies to figure out where it makes sense to co-operate," one source says.

Besides the Internet, the two companies are looking for common ground in multimedia and communications, sources say. "There are a number of areas where it would make sense for the companies to get together," Microsoft's Bradford says. "For example, there's going to be four versions of the Java virtual machine interface available for the Macintosh: one from Apple, one from Netscape, one from Sun and one from us, in conjunction with Metrowerks," Bradford says. "It would make sense if there were only one."

However, Bradford denies published reports that Microsoft is funding the Macintosh development efforts of ISVs. He also denies that Microsoft is attempting to prop up Apple in order to fend off another Justice Department anti-trust investigation of Microsoft.

* The Macintosh version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer is set to ship by year's end.

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