Apple sees open Gates, raises Jobs' status and accepts Microsoft's cash

Those poor, poor billionaires.


Microsoft Corp.'s $150 million infusion of capital to keep Apple Computer Inc. afloat
had the Rat's paranoia meter registering off the scale. He suspects most of the Macintosh
faithful were freaking out, too.


The Mac-heads saw a hidden agenda--some dark compact between Steve Jobs and the company
that's fondly known in Seattle as "the mother ship."


How could Steve have accepted charity from the devil? How could the business community
talk up the deal, boost Apple's stock and almost deify Microsoft's Bill Gates for his
generosity?


The cyberrodent knows that $150 million may be real money to the government, but it's
leftover pocket change to Microsoft.


Remember how much marketing moola it blew on losers like At Work and Microsoft Bob?


Sure, the company can throw away that piddling sum without blinking. And what does
Microsoft get in exchange?


It gets guaranteed seats for Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office, virtual control
over Apple's Java strategy and an end to the threat of litigation for stealing the Mac
interface in Microsoft Windows 95.


For less than the cost of an out-of-court settlement, Microsoft walks away with
everything it could want from a business perspective.


What does Apple get out of this? Microsoft lets it live--for now. How touching.


The whiskered one suspects this new whirled order will not endure for long, though.
With most of its product differentiators disappearing, the Mac OS has become a sitting
duck.


Sure, developers probably can write new apps for Apple and Windows platforms at the
same time, but there won't be much reason to run them on Macs anymore.


Considering the number of Mac developers who've already jumped ship, it's just a matter
of time.


Developers who decide to stick with Apple are going to have to make big changes to get
along with Rhapsody, the coming fusion of Mac and Next Software Inc. operating systems. As
far as the Rat can tell, Rhapsody won't be music to the ears of anyone except Next.


But it's possible that government users may be glad to finally have a friendly Unix OS
from a company the size of Apple, no matter how beleaguered. Next means Posix and other
stuff Unix programmers have had for a while, only now it will all be on a platform with
access to Mac apps.


There's one other thing going for the Mac OS and Apple: They still have style. Windows
doesn't.


Yeah, Windows has most of the Mac OS features by now, plus it does multitasking, but
the Apple name carries more cachet.


The Mac is the snazzy Italian sports car of computers. Windows is a station wagon with
mandatory built-in child restraints and Garfield stuck on the window.


Steve Jobs may not be a great businessman, but he's got style. Bill Gates ... well ...
even in an Armani suit? The Rat wonders why a guy with all that money can't get a good
haircut. But the Apple bailout makes Bill look cool by association.


Maybe that's why Oracle Corp. chairman Larry Ellison, who made lots of noise about an
Apple takeover, quietly took a seat on Apple's board. The Rat suspects that Gates and
Ellison, although already a Jobs pal, want to be more like Jobs.


They want to tag along with him to the Hollywood openings of his Pixar Inc. releases
and schmooze with the stars. Maybe they figure they can pick up some of his charisma by
osmosis.


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets
in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.


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