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ATPM 3.08
August 1997



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Apple Cider: Random Squeezings from a Mac User

by Tom Iovino,

Apple juice, Apple sauce, or the whole fruit?—Apple’s future after the Microsoft deal

The way I see it, Steve Jobs is a Jerk. That statement is strong and irreverrent, but it’s how I feel. Announcing the Microsoft deal the way he did, in front of the Mac faithful at a Macworld Expo, was tantamount to a kick to the nether regions for dedicated Mac users all over the world.

There, in one sweeping gesture, Jobs effectively called us a bunch of stooges. After all, it was a Steve Jobs-led Apple Computer which created the famous 1984 commercial. You remember that one—everyone who used that other company’s computer was a brainless zombie, but the athletic woman with the red shorts, white tee shirt, and a mean hammer toss was going to fix it for all for us. After all, “1984 isn’t going to be like 1984.” We have always been told by Apple that we were that liberating force, working against oppression by the “big guys.”

Now, Jobs invites Big Brother Bill to appear on the big screen in front of the people who keep Apple up and swinging. I’m surprised no one tossed a hammer through the screen in protest.

Imagine if the CEO of General Motors made a surprise announcement at the model year roll-out in Detroit that the company was being bought out by Mercedes Benz. What would the country’s response be? How would the news be taken at a venue where American automobile technology was supposed to be the star? Probably not too well.

I also have to let you know what I think about Bill Gates. He’s no better than the “robber barons” of the late nineteenth century. He’s getting very big and it is becoming very scary. People were angered over the preception of Japanese encroachment into American society in the 1980's, yet no one seems to mind the immense growth and acquisitive nature of Gates’ Redmond, Washington-based firm.

OK. I’ve gotten that off my chest. I’ve probably covered the range of anger most Mac users felt after Jobs’ August 6th announcement of the Microsoft buy in. Immediately after hearing the news, I signed on to my AOL account and went to the live chat area for Apple Computers. Let me tell you, the venom was flowing freely. There were calls for people to abandon computers all together to protest the Microsoft monopoly. Others were calling for open revolt on the streets. The general feeling was that something surely had to be done. Some were expecting the Federal Government to come through and break Microsoft monopoly to pieces.

Hey, wake up and smell Boardwalk. Microsoft already has a 90%+ share of the market. How much more of a monopoly do you want a company to have before someone blows the whistle? If 90%+ of the people flew American Airlines, they would be considered as having a monopoly on air travel. If UPS delivered 90%+ of the country’s packages, they would have a monopoly on package freight. With 90%+ of the desktop operating systems out there, Microsoft has a stranglehold on the home computing industry. And, don’t hold out hope for the Fed to break Microsoft into “Baby Bells.” There’s not going to be an AT&T-style breakup here. Besides, how could any other company come off the bench cold with a brand new OS and take on the Microsoft Juggernaut? IBM couldn’t with OS/2, Jobs couldn’t do it with NeXT, and it seems Apple’s not going to do it by going head to head.

So, now where do we go? I’m going to sound hypocritical, but let me tell you that Steve Jobs is a genius (I drive my wife crazy when I cover all the bases like this). Apple Computer has always had the edge in computing technology. System integration and ease of use have been the Macintosh hallmark since 1984. Plug and play, built in networking through the printer port, ease of configuration, crushing speed in graphics, and heck, even the smiling icon at startup are all things that set Macintosh apart. Despite all of these advantages, Macintosh has consistently lost market share.

Jobs recognized that for Mac to break out of its anemic performance during the past decade, a management team with a proven track record in technology had to be brought aboard. Larry Ellison, Oracle’s CEO, who has sent up trial balloons for a possible Apple takeover, was brought on board—even after the protests from the Apple community which felt that he was trying to destroy them. Oracle’s meteoric success, however, is nothing short of impressive. Ellison possesses the aggressive marketing skills and technical expertise Apple needs from each member of its Board of Directors. Obviously, the “feel-good, touchy-feely” approach of the past decade has failed miserably.

Most importantly, Apple and Microsoft will be sharing patents and technology. Am I the only person in the world who grasps the gravity of this statement? For years, the pipe dream of everyone in the Macintosh community has been to see the Mac OS on 90%+ of computers. Let me see... Apple and Microsoft are sharing technology... Microsoft has a history of acquiring companies and cherry picking the best technology from them... Mac’s OS has inspired the look and feel of Windows... hmmmm... Don’t be too surprised of Rhapsody is renamed “Windows ’98.”

For those of you playing at home, it was only a few weeks ago that Microsoft announced that Windows ’98 was going to be the next OS upgrade. The bombshell Jobs announcement came too close on the heels of the Windows ’98 hype be mere coincidence. You’d figure that a deal like this one had to be hammered out over a few weeks at least, and reports claim the deal was initially concocted around July 4th. Wouldn’t it be great to see Windows’ DOS underpinnings finally crushed like a bug under a heavy boot while former Windows ’95 users get a taste of the Mac experience?

And what about Bill Gates? Here’s the only guy who can say, “I want Rhapsody to be Windows ’98,” and make it a reality. For years, Gates and Microsoft have been envious of the Mac OS. Microsoft programmers have attempted to squeeze everything that is good in the Mac OS into Windows. Heck, Windows exists because DOS couldn’t stand up to the Mac. People looked at the C: prompt and scratched their heads while Mac users were zipping through their work. Any Windows system, no matter how primitive or ineffective, was considered an improvement over DOS. Even though my brother-in-law needed to run DOS, Windows 3.1, and another third party Windows navigation program just to have an operational OS, he felt it was better than just running plain ol’ DOS.

Besides, if the Microsoft release of Rhapsody looks like a Mac, acts like a Mac, and feels like a Mac, will the word “Windows” on the box be enough to screw it up? Hardly.

Big Bill also gains a few other major benefits from this partnership:

First, he gets a chance to bust into the two markets which have eluded him for years: Creative Content (Desktop Publishing, Internet, Graphics, etc.) and Education. If this deal works out well, Jane Internet Publisher will be able to use any platform she wants to without having the surprise of finding that her financial package for the Mac is incompatible with the Windows program used by her accountant. Microsoft Office can sit next to Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Freehand on her hard drive with no trouble.

Secondly, Gates gets to check the patent infringement suit filed by Apple off of his list of things to do. Turning this wasted effort into R&D may defray the cost and speed the release of OS upgrades and software titles. As I stated before, sharing the technology instead of litigating it will probably result in an improved, Mac-ified version of Windows in the very near future.

Third, Microsoft can start a new partnership with another chip manufacturer. At times, the Wintel platform has looked like it was assembled by the Three Stooges. The famed Pentium bug (2+2 = 3.9879347872927734672388) has made Microsoft look foolish. The people to blame, Intel, never had to worry about getting the boot. After all, of the two other major chip manufacturers, Digital has always been lukewarm to any advances by Microsoft, and Motorola has been Apple’s partner. While other upstart chip companies have offered quality chips and given a scare, Intel still rules the roost on the PC side. However, with Apple in partnership with Microsoft, Intel’s technicians, dancing to Play that Funky Music in their brightly colored clean suits, may be looking for a new job in the event that Motorola gets the nod.

What’s to become of Apple as an entity? While the past years have brought nothing but heartache and stories of the company disappearing into the sunset, the future looks a little more clear now. Three possible scenarios come to mind, and any one of them would still prove vindication for us Mac users:

First, Apple could miraculously bounce back, return the $150 million to Big Bill, and go on to crush Microsoft into the turf. Yeah, sure, whatever. Maybe they’ll bring back Ameilo, Spindler, and Sculley to lead the charge. Keep dreaming.

Second, Apple could become an independent, wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft. From this position, they could act as the Research and Development arm, providing Microsoft with the “Gee Whiz” technology that has made Mac a snappy little system. Apple could also continue to work as the graphics division of the software giant, ensuring a clean transition from Apple vs. Microsoft to a unified platform for the core users of the Mac system.

Finally, Apple could just be swallowed whole by Microsoft. Period. End of discussion. All of what Apple is just becomes a part of Microsoft and Apple, Inc. becomes a ghost lurking around in the halls of Microsoft’s corporate headquarters, and in its new operating systems...

One option, which I’m not even considering, is that Apple just withers and dies, leaving all of its technology in the trash bin. This won’t happen. Unlike systems such as the Commodore Amiga, there’s both a rabidly devoted user base plus software support from major companies.

Apple will live on, but in what form? As sauce, juice, or the whole fruit?

[apple graphic] “Apple Cider” is © 1997 by Tom Iovino,

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Reader Comments (2)

Dean Powell · April 4, 2003 - 17:05 EST #1
I have always wondered why Mac users are so adamant about hating Microsoft. I am old enough that I cut my teeth on a Zerox computer before Mac or Microsoft even existed. They had all the technology that Mac uses and it was "hired" away. IBM was the big bad boy at the time and they missed the boat on cutting a deal with Gates when he was struggling. Jobs screwed up when wouldn't share the Mac operating system with the software developers which, as I recall, was CPM or something like that. The Mac was superior, but lost out on marketing and sharing.

I would think that the only way to save Macintosh or the Apple Computer Corp. is to get more compatible with Microsoft which is where I thought they were heading. As far as ever becoming the dominate operating system, I believe they have lost that race along with Unix and all the other operating systems out there.

Of course you know that Daimler purchased Chrysler. Don't think this is a monopoly! I hope that Mac hangs in there and makes it possible to use the many great Windows programs out there.
Tom Iovino (ATPM Staff) · April 7, 2003 - 08:25 EST #2
Dean -

Thanks for your remarks. At the time (August 1997), things looked pretty bleak for Apple with media reporting that the computer company was going to fold any day. Over the past 5.5 years, the outlook for the company has improved considerably, and a number of technologies pioneered by Apple are now being used across multiple platforms--and users are better off for it.

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