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IBM Sees Red

Or maybe that title should be "Apple Sees Blue." Either way, the result is the same. Apple and IBM have been sneaking off into the broom closet to make deals recently. A while ago there was a brief comment about a networking technology deal, and then Apple started using IBM hard disks in some IIci's, and now there's talk about a sweeping agreement that would send AppleTalk, QuickTime, Publish & Subscribe, and a player to be named later (but probably Apple's PinkOS (well, it's a nice acronym, anyway :-)) object-oriented next-generation operating system) to IBM in return for IBM's networking protocols, its RISC RS/6000 chip, and some code from OS/2. Lest this seem too incredible to have any base in reality, Bob Cringely says that he's talked to people at IBM who have seen System 7 running on a PS/2.

Do keep in mind that this would be a technology transfer, and neither company would have to implement anything. IBM likes licensing technology just to have it on hand for later use, such as with NeXTstep, for which IBM paid ten million and then stuffed behind the mops in the closet. There's no telling what could happen with this agreement, but here's my bets (which have no money riding on them, luckily).

Apple and IBM will use Pink and OS/2 to come up with a new operating system that is platform-independent and is completely free of Microsoft's clutches. A new OS will enable IBM to move away from the technological disaster of DOS and the marketing disaster of OS/2 and will allow Apple to greatly increase the appeal of its next operating system. Networking from both companies will become more complete in supporting each other, which helps all users. Lots of my PC clients would kill for the ease of inexpensive LocalTalk built into their systems. I don't know enough about RISC to say much about whether Apple will use IBM's RS/6000 chip in favor of the Motorola 88110 (which NeXT is also considering for a future NeXT workstation), but apparently Motorola has had trouble shipping the chip in quantity. The RS/6000 license might put some pressure on Motorola to get its act together, but I've also heard that if Apple did go with the RS/6000, Motorola would manufacture it in compensation for Apple's rejection of the 88110. A final option is the so-called MISC (Minimal Instruction Set Computing) chip, which only has a few instruction but runs blazingly fast and can emulate any RISC or CISC architecture due to its simplicity. No word if Apple is considering MISC at all. Overall, I think there's about as much posturing as reality in this deal.

The reason for the deal seems pretty clear, though. Both Apple and IBM are worried about Microsoft and the ACE Consortium. In addition, Apple wants to break into the mainstream and who is more mainstream than IBM? Interestingly enough, if you think about previous Apple alliances, most notably the one with DEC, they have produced little. Now look where DEC is, ensconced in ACE at the side of Microsoft and Compaq.

In addition to all this, remember our April Fools article on IBM buying Lotus? Well, that still hasn't happened, but IBM and Lotus are expected to announce an agreement today that will enable IBM to use technology from Lotus's Notes program. Who knows what Lotus gets in return, other than cash. The final free agents are Quarterdeck and GeoWorks, two companies whose combined products compete extremely well with Windows. They've been talking about possibly getting together to create a version of PC/GEOS that will multitask DOS applications and still not become as large a hardware hog as Windows. Pay attention to all of this, because you can't tell the players without a scorecard in this game of Microsoft bashing.

Information from:
TNG TaiHou -- ISSTTH%NUSVM.BITNET@forsythe.stanford.edu
John A. Starta -- tosh!starta@asuvax.eas.asu.edu
Steve Witten -- stevewi@hpspdra.spd.hp.com
Eric Behr -- ejbehr@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Vladimir G. Ivanovic -- vladimir@Eng.Sun.COM

Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 18-Jun-91, Vol. 5, #23, pg. 1
PC WEEK -- 10-Jun-91, Vol. 8, #23, pg. 33
InfoWorld -- 17-Jun-91, Vol. 13, #24, pg. 1
InfoWorld -- 10-Jun-91, Vol. 13, #23, pg. 1