A NEW deal between IBM and Apple Computer - the United States'
largest and second-largest computermakers - is a sign of things to
Economics and rapidly changing technology are pushing computer
companies into strategic alliances - a sharp change from a decade
"These kinds of relationships will probably continue to form for
the foreseeable future," says Bruce Lupatkin, managing director of
technology development at Hambrecht and Quist, a San Francisco
Some of these alliances are more tactical than strategic and
won't last long, he says. But even the biggest companies are
struggling with thinner profit margins and the demand of consumers
for industry-wide standards. This means more partnerships.
In April, 21 companies, including No. 3 computermaker Compaq,
announced that they would work together to offer machines with
standard central software (operating systems) and hardware
(microprocessor chips). The consortium is known as ACE, for Advanced
Last week, International Business Machines Corporation and Apple
Computer Inc. signed a wide-ranging pact that, if successful, could
boost the fortunes of both companies.
Specifically, the deal would:
*-Form a joint company that would create a new software platform
based on object-oriented programming. This kind of programming
breaks up computer programs into building blocks that can be
reconfigured to suit the need. The operating system would be open,
meaning that it could run on a wide variety of hardware.
This move could help both companies shake the competition from
Microsoft Corporation, an ACE member whose Windows operating system
has gained widespread favor.
*-Build products that would make it easier for Apple's Macintosh
computers to work in networks with IBM machines. The two companies
will also develop and market an enhanced version of IBM's UNIX
*-Allow both companies to build new personal computers using
IBM's RISC microprocessor architecture. RISC, which stands for
reduced instruction set computing, is an alternative to the chip
architecture used by industry leader Intel. Motorola, which makes
its own RISC chips for Apple, will work with IBM to design and
manufacture the new version of the IBM chip.
*-Create software platforms that incorporate multimedia
technology - the merging together of text, graphics, video, and
Analysts are not sure the deal will work, since the companies
have not laid out how they'll solve the technological problems.
"Obviously, there's been a lot of buildup toward the Great
Promise," says an analyst whose company prefers anonymity. …