Microsoft's ties bolster Apple's biz

The technology accord between Apple Computer Inc. and Microsoft Corp. will boost prospects for the Macintosh platform in the federal market and promises greater interaction between Windows and Macintosh clients.

That is the analysis of industry executives regarding the new ties between the sometime rivals. Under the alliance announced Aug. 6 at the MacWorld conference Microsoft has pledged to develop and ship Mac versions of its office automation suite starting with Office 98. Microsoft also will continue to create Mac versions of its Internet Explorer browser which Apple will bundle with Mac OS as the default browser. Microsoft plans to seal the deal with a $150 million investment in not-voting Apple stock.

"It's only a good thing " said Jeff Martin principal systems engineer with RMS Information Systems a NASA Lewis Research Center contractor. "Anything Microsoft endorses even half-heartedly - and $150 million is not half-hearted - tends to do well." Martin edits the "MacScene" newsletter for the Lewis Mac Users Group.

Martin said Microsoft's continued support of the Mac-based applications is key to the alliance and to the viability of the Mac. Steve Jobs Apple's founder and newly appointed board member told MacWorld attendees that "Microsoft is committing to release Microsoft Office on the Macintosh for the next five years. They are going to release the same number of major releases as they release on Windows during that time."

"By having a huge developer and a huge powerhouse like Microsoft commit to five years all the questions about Apples' viability should go away " said Marc Cannady Apple/Mac OS business manager at Government Technology Services Inc. "This opens the doors for the rest of the developer community to say `I can get on board with that.' "

Microsoft plans to have Office 98 for the Mac shipping by year's end but at MacWorld Jobs said "It might slip a few months."

Barry Leffew director of federal operations at Apple said federal users are encouraged by the announcement particularly Microsoft's plans for Office. "For office automation Microsoft Office is the key package and it's reassuring to have it on the Mac " he said.

Cannady said Office 98 is particularly important because Microsoft did not make Office 97 available for the Mac platform. Office 98 for the Mac "will bring us closer to the rest of the [Windows/Intel Corp.] community " he said. "[Microsoft is] doing a complete from-the-ground-up write of Office 98 that will take full advantage of Mac OS 8." The product Cannady said also will be positioned to take advantage of Rhapsody Apple's next-generation operating system which is slated for general availability next year.

Apple's plans meanwhile to make Internet Explorer its default browser will not adversely affect browser rival Netscape Communications Corp. in the federal market according to a Netscape official.

"To be quite honest I see this announcement as having virtually no impact at all on our federal business " said John Menkart Netscape's regional sales director. "The fact that the default browser is Internet Explorer doesn't mean a whole lot. In many cases Navigator will be present as well."

Another aspect of the alliance is a cross-licensing agreement which Apple observers believe will promote further interoperability between the Mac and Windows platforms.

Cannady said the agreement will "help to pull the two platforms closer together." He said the move also dovetails with the plans of Apple IBM Corp. and Motorola Corp. to create a common hardware reference platform. Those companies have been working to develop a technical specification that would allow systems based on the PowerPC chip to run multiple operating systems including Mac OS and Windows NT.

Martin said he hopes future development efforts will address networking considerations. "They need to concentrate on Windows networking " he said. He cited network-based user authentication as one area Apple needs to address.

Cannady said Windows NT already offers strong support of the Mac environment backing the AppleTalk networking protocol. He said Mac machines can take advantage of file printer and TCP/IP services in an NT network. "[Networking] just gets better from here."

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