Apple has outlined technologies that will better tie its hardware and software products to the Internet and corporate intranets.
Larry Tesler, vice-president of Apple's Internet development group, says that Apple's experience with multimedia puts the company in a strong position to deliver access, delivery and creation tools for intranets, which Apple endorses as the network architecture of the future. Fundamental to Apple's strategy, however, are proposed new standards that are in the early stages of development at Apple.
The Meta Content Format (MCF) is a proposed Internet standard that would open up data stored in legacy databases, text files and Web pages and make it available through a single MCF viewer instead of requiring multiple viewing methods. Different MCF viewers would theoretically be available from different vendors.
Apple demonstrated two data-independent viewers at the Mactivity conference in San Jose, California this week that are part of an internal development programme dubbed ProjectX. One viewer gives a 3D fly-through view of the files, folders and so on contained in a Web site, database or desktop. The other view gives a 2D outline via the Macintosh Finder.
"With MCF, you can write applications to access data types easily," says Andy Lauta, manager of product marketing for AppleNet, Apple's Internet division. "Today, there are proprietary data stores and indexes and Web maps with no consistency from one to the other."
Lauta says that Apple is working on tools intended to add MCF tags to a database in less than an hour.
For document distribution over the Internet, Apple is showing off NetFinder, a MacOS asynchronous Common Gateway Interface (ACGI) to extend Mac-based servers for file sharing via the Internet. In addition to making it easier for Webmasters to make Mac-based information accessible, NetFinder will give users a graphical interface for viewing Macintosh folders and documents from a browser.
Apple has also announced that Cyberdog 1.1, its OpenDoc-based frame for Internet applications, goes into beta this week and will ship in August. The latest beta has a revamped interface and support for Netscape plug-ins, and will import Netscape bookmarks. Users can save Zones and AppleShare files as CyberItems, making it easier to browse Appletalk networks alongside Internet sites and integrate access to network services.
"What Quicktime did for multimedia, Cyberdog does for the Internet," says Lauta.
Corel's WordPerfect for the Macintosh will also serve as an OpenDoc container in a release later this year, Apple says, and as Claris and other developers roll out their OpenDoc applications users will have more outlets for embedding Internet information into documents.