Apple is pondering the release of a Windows NT-based Power Macintosh by the end of the year, following the signing of a wide-ranging licensing agreement with Microsoft.
Apple executives declined to comment on how the company would use its rights to NT, but sources familiar with the company's plans say it is considering offering a server running the OS.
"Apple has to seriously consider it at this point, because most of its other server options are either disappearing or falling behind," one source says.
NT would give Apple a strong departmental server platform and would strengthen Apple's overall Internet server message, sources say.
Apple has already introduced an AIX-based server, but its plans for a wider presence as a mainstream corporate desktop were damaged when IBM decided to drop plans for a PowerPC-based version of OS/2 and Novell delayed plans to come out with a server version of NetWare 4.x for the Power Mac, sources say.
Even if Apple decides not to offer its own NT server, the company is already working closely with both Microsoft and Motorola to improve NT's support for Macintosh clients and is discussing plans with Motorola to offer a joint, comprehensive networking solution composed of NT servers and Mac clients, sources say.
As part of that effort, Apple is also working to port its cross-platform software products -- such as QuickTime, QuickDraw 3D, and even CyberDog -- to NT, the sources say.
"Apple now recognises that NT is a strategic product that it will have to support," one source says.
According to data from International Data, sales of NT increased by more than 370% last year and will nearly double again in 1996, which will make it the second most popular server operating system, with estimated sales of 720,000 units.
Apple reached an agreement with Microsoft earlier this year for licences covering Windows 95, Windows 3.x, and NT, says Dave Daetz, cross-platform product line manager for Apple.
The company intends to bundle Windows 95 and Windows 3.x with its DOS compatibility cards, but Daetz rules out using NT in a similar way.
Noting that Apple is exploring ways to offer NT with Apple's PowerPC Reference Platform-compatible designs that are due in November, Daetz indicates that those systems would not likely need DOS compatibility cards.