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IBM, Apple to Cooperate in 5 Fields

By Evelyn Richards
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 3, 1991; Page B11

SAN FRANCISCO, OCT. 2 -- Longtime rivals International Business Machines Corp. and Apple Computer Inc. launched an ambitious bid to reshape the computer industry today by announcing a five-part cooperation effort that gradually will blur the distinction between their product lines.

However, the wide-ranging agreement announced at a press conference here is unlikely to have much impact on the industry or computer buyers for several years, analysts said.

IBM President Jack Kuehler and Apple Chairman John Sculley, mindful that an alliance between the two firms would have been unthinkable just a few months ago, kidded each other about continuing to compete fiercely for customers. Sculley proclaimed their alliance "a renaissance in technical innovation," while Kuehler declared "the second decade of personal computing ... begins today."

For the foreseeable future, personal computer buyers are likely to notice little impact from the unprecedented accord. Apple will continue to sell its Macintoshes, and IBM will continue to tout its PCs, with its new OS/2 operating system.

The accord, analysts said, is aimed more at winning customers in offices, where competition is stiff and PCs are being replaced by workstations -- powerful computers that are usually linked together so that users can share information.

Some future computers from Apple and IBM will use the same microprocessor and similar operating systems.

IBM and Apple said they will develop a new operating system, part of a set of computer design standards they are calling PowerOpen. PowerOpen workstations will allow users to run applications written either for Macintoshes or existing IBM workstations no matter which firm makes the computer. In a sense, certain IBM computers will be "Mac-compatible," marking the first time another major computer company has been able to adopt the Macintosh's easy-to-use software. PowerOpen products are not due for about three years.

IBM and Apple will license the PowerOpen technologies to other companies, an apparent effort to create enough momentum for their design to blunt the runaway success of workstation leader Sun Microsystems Inc., whose design is also available to other computer makers.

A third contender in this so-called "open systems" market is Advanced Computing Environment, a consortium of several dozen firms whose key players include Microsoft Corp., a major rival of both IBM and Apple.

Wooing computer makers into an alliance is important because developers of software applications, such as word processors or engineering design programs, are likely to write for the systems that have the greatest sales volume. Apple and IBM also benefit because they would get royalty payments and maintain control over the direction of key aspects of computer systems software, something IBM lost to Microsoft in the PC arena.

Apple and IBM also reiterated their intention, first made public three months ago, to build future computers around a version of an existing IBM microprocessor. Sculley said Apple would build primarily small computers and portables using the chip, while IBM would emphasize larger machines. Motorola Inc., which will make the chip being dubbed PowerPC, also will sell it to other companies.

The most immediate impact of the alliance may be products due later this year to more easily connect Macintoshes to IBM PCs and large IBM computers, where most data in corporations is stored. This part of the pact is important to Apple, which has had difficulty breaking into the IBM-dominated corporate market.

IBM and Apple also announced the establishment of two California-based joint ventures, Kaleida and Taligent, in which they will share equal ownership. Kaleida will attempt to develop technologies for merging sound, graphics and video in what is known as multimedia computing.

Taligent will develop a new method for programming computers by employing object-oriented software, which eases and expedites the writing of software programs. The Taligent product is not expected to be available on computers for at least five years.

The Taligent venture will be staffed initially with 200 persons, of which 150 will come from Apple, which is already working on a similar project code-named Pink.

IBM employees will have to apply for jobs at Taligent, whose chief operating officer is now an Apple official.

© Copyright The Washington Post Company

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