Apple pulls up boot straps

Apple starts its long road back to respectability this week, beginning with the introduction of OpenDoc for the masses and concluding with the introduction of the System 8.0 operating system in the second quarter of 1997.

Apple starts its long road back to respectability this week, beginning with the introduction of OpenDoc for the masses and concluding with the introduction of the System 8.0 operating system in the second quarter of 1997. Along the way, it will revitalise its PowerBook line, attempt to enter the multiprocessor scientific and engineering marketplace, endorse the PowerPC Reference Platform (PREP), develop a Windows NT server strategy and integrate OpenDoc into its System 7.5x OS.

Apple kicks off the Macworld Expo show in Boston this week with the introduction of LiveObjects, a consumer version of OpenDoc parts that will be showcased by more than a dozen developers. Also at Macworld, the company will unveil plans to add true multitasking and multithreading capabilities to its System 8.0 OS to match Microsoft's NT initiatives.

With these added features, Apple could be in a position to deliver a multiprocessor server running the MacOS for the first time, say sources familiar with Apple's plans.

Before it ships System 8.0, however, Apple has a host of hardware and software product introductions in the works, sources say. The first will be the replacement in the fourth quarter of its beleaguered PowerBook 5300 with a standard PowerPC 603e system that is expected to have a faster 166-MHz processor. By fourth quarter Comdex, Apple will roll out a PREP-compliant notebook it is jointly developing with IBM and demonstrate the PREP-based systems it intends to ship in early 1997.

These PREP-compliant systems will include support for a faster 64-bit implementation of PCI, faster processors, support for the 620 PowerPC and a Windows NT strategy linking the Macintosh desktop with NT servers. Although the first PREP-compliant systems will be priced somewhat higher than the MacOS-only systems from Apple, sources say that the use of industry-standard components will clear the way for entry-level Macs priced as low as US$1000 in mid-1997.

By the end of this year -- and possibly as early as Comdex, according to some sources -- Apple will release an interim version of its OS that will integrate Cyberdog, OpenDoc, QuickTime and QuickDraw 3D into the OS, a program Apple's president and CEO Gil Amelio announced in May.

However, not everyone is sure Apple's strategy comes soon enough. "The Macintosh is finished in corporate America," says Ted Schlein, vice-president of networking and client/server technology at Symantec.

But for some observers, Apple's road map offers compelling evidence that Amelio is succeeding. "They are aggressively positioning products that will keep them competitive with Microsoft and Intel," saysRichard Doherty, founder of Envisioneering, a market research company in Seaford, New York.

Apple's long and winding road

August: LiveObject OpenDoc applets; faster versions of 7200, 7600, 8500, and 9500 Power Macintoshes; Power Mac 180-MHz 9500 multiprocessor system

Fourth quarter: PowerBook introductions with faster processors; PC Card support; standard CD-ROM drives

Comdex: PREP desktop systems; PREP-compliant notebooks; 64-bit PCI; Windows NT-based server plans

December: System 7.5x, which integrates OpenDoc and Cyberdog into the OS

Second quarter 1997: System 8.0 (Copland) with true multitasking and multithreading capabilities

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