Opportunities for resellers with Macs - Apple outlines its OS strategy

Opportunities for resellers with Macs - Apple outlines its OS strategy

Entering its third decade, Apple faces a long, hard struggle to rebuild its finances and improve its share of the market.

It is pinning its hopes on the next version of the Mac OS due later this month - and on time.

It is also backing this with Rhapsody, the next generation operating system that should start seeing the light of day in beta later this year. Rhapsody is the outcome of the buyout of Steve Jobs' company, Next Computer.

In the short term, the company plans to return to profitability by the end of the year. Steve Rust, sales director for Apple, said: "The biggest issue facing the reseller community is falling margins, cheaper PCs and the network computer. It means resellers will have to get more into adding services.

"There are good opportunities for the channel, based on how good the Mac is at integrating with other platforms," he said.

"Rhapsody is the best development environment for Java applications," said Rust.

By using so-called "Yellow Box" application programming interfaces (APIs) software developers will be able to deploy applications on a wide variety of operating systems including Rhapsody, Mac OS, Rhapsody for Intel, Windows 95 and Windows NT.

By making Yellow Box cross-platform, Apple believes it can attract new software developers to the Rhapsody and Mac OS platforms as well as expand business opportunities for current Mac OS developers.

On top of all this, Apple aims to provide strong backward compatibility for Mac OS software.

This scenario will see Apple offering two complementary product lines in Mac OS and Rhapsody.

"Customers will be able to migrate to Rhapsody at their own speed," said Rust. The company acknowledges that many will not want to upgrade, so it will continue to roll out new versions of the Mac OS. It has code-named these Allegro (due in mid-1998) and Sonata, slated for the following year.

First customer releases of Rhapsody are planned for early next year. This will be the premier release and will have limited compatibility with Mac OS applications.

The general release of Rhapsody, known as the Unified Release, will have compatibility with Mac OS applications through the porting of the Mac OS to the Rhapsody base.

Expect the Unified Release to ship in mid-1998.

With its already strong presence in Web publishing (estimates suggest more than 60 per cent of professional publishers use the Mac environment) Apple believes it is ideally placed to build on the Internet phenomenon.

"The cross-platform issue and the Internet are two powerful sales points for Apple," said Rust.

"We also remain strong in the print publishing market and our traditional education sector," he said.

"Pulling out of the mass market was a plus for us," said Rust.

"It meant our speciality resellers could highlight the advantages of the Mac rather than mass merchants just displaying the Mac alongside Intel boxes."

You can still buy a Mac in some of Myer's speciality stores but the majority of sales will be through Apple's reseller channel.

Apple has been doing things differently for the past 20 years. Its original success with the Apple II was not followed with the Lisa, but it did strike it with the Mac.

It remains to be seen if the Mac OS, Rhapsody and the Internet will take the company through the next few years.

Apple tops PC brand loyalty

You have to hand it to Mac enthusiasts - they are, well, enthusiastic about the product. Recent research in the US showed Apple users remain the most loyal in the computer industry. For the third consecutive year, Apple led the personal-computer industry in repurchase loyalty, according to an annual review of PC ownership by Computer Intelligence (CI), of California.

CI's 1997 Consumer Technology Index (CTI) measured the percentage of buyers of new machines in the home, small-business and corporate markets who remained loyal to a particular brand.

Apple topped the list, with 81 per cent of the company's customers buying another Mac.

For the record, Gateway 2000 was second, with 72 per cent of its customers remaining loyal; Acer America was third with 69 per cent; Compaq was fourth with 60 per cent; Hewlett-Packard and Dell tied for fifth with 58 per cent each.

CI said sales of clones failed to make a significant dent in the loyalty of Apple's customers.

"Mac OS clones started to have a substantial impact on the Mac marketplace only in the later stages of 1996 so did not have much of an effect on our loyalty figures, which measure repurchase rates for the full year," according to CI analyst Dave Tremblay. However, Tremblay warned that this might not always be the case, especially considering Apple's ongoing financial woes.

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