Apple may finally have the partner it needs to make the Macintosh-clone market viable, but the joint development agreement with IBM, combined with an ongoing reorganisation, is delaying Apple's own system introductions.
Apple had initially planned to introduce its next generation PowerBook line in July, but sources familiar with the company's plans say Apple will be lucky if it can even show prototypes in time for Macworld August.
"Now it wants to wait and see what IBM comes up with before it introduces the new PowerBooks," one source says.
Although the specifications have not been released, Apple and IBM executives have confirmed that the two companies are working on a PowerPC-based portable design similar to IBM's ThinkPad line that would run the MacOS.
The design is expected to include some IBM features, such as displays ranging from 10.4in to 12.1in, support for the IBM MWave digital signal processor and a modular design that will let users swap components in and out easily, sources say.
It is also expected to accommodate more memory at a lower price than Apple has typically provided with its PowerBook lines, the sources say.
However, Apple was expected to introduce a number of new design features in its next generation of PowerBooks that would make the portables more competitive against existing Windows-based systems.
An entry-level system was expected to incorporate the PCI bus architecture, a 133-MHz PowerPC 603e chip, 8Mb of RAM, a 10.4in active or passive matrix screen, a PC Card slot capable of supporting two Type II cards or a single Type III card, an infrared connection, and a 520Mb hard drive.
Apple was also planning to support a standard-size CD-ROM drive, sources say, instead of the proprietary CD-ROM drive design built to Apple's specifications.
Most of those changes will still be introduced; however, Apple may take advantage of the delay to offer a faster processor and more memory, sources say.
Efforts to introduce systems have also been hampered by organisational changes being made by president and CEO Gil Amelio, some sources say.
With a number of top executives leaving Apple over the past year, and Amelio announcing at last month's World Wide Developers Conference plans to create four separate units within Apple , a number of product development plans have stalled temporarily, one source says.
"People have been more worried about whether they would have a job than if a project was on schedule," the source says.