Trying to find an Apple direction

Trying to find an Apple direction

Normally, I approach the annual pilgrimage to Macworld Expo Boston with the same anticipation I have for a root canal. Only dental work is more uncomfortable than Boston in August.

This year was different. The gossip fest in the Valley had me packing my bags in a quest for truth.

In spite of an internal memo to his staff at Pixar saying they were "stuck" with him, Steve Jobs left wiggle room in his not-entirely-public announcement that he declined offers for the CEO and chairman jobs at Apple. If Jobs doesn't wind up heading the Apple board, it's most likely that leading CEO candidates are refusing to work with him.

And who are the leading contenders? Apple's not talking, but the rumour mill has been churning a new name. Onetime IBMer Jim Cannavino has resigned without explanation from Perot Systems, leaving employees to speculate that he was on his way to Cupertino.

Cannavino played a big role in the IBM/Apple/Motorola PowerPC alliance. Those interactions would have given him plenty of exposure to Apple and Jobs, but sources say the personalities of Jobs and Cannavino are "diametrically opposed".

Another name being mentioned for the Apple job is Jean-Louis Gassee, but he's fairly busy at Be. Company followers expect to see a version of the BeOS running on Intel hardware, and that's just the beginning. Be is currently talking with a number of OEMs about Internet appliances.

After digesting US Robotics, 3Com is now pursuing a surround-and-contain strategy against Cisco with an eye toward acquiring a switch vendor such as Newbridge.

But the odd division out in the USR/3Com conglomeration is the Palm Computing group, which is now happily acting as an independent unit and talking to Netscape about using its browser in the Pilot sometime later this year. Meanwhile, Netscape's Internet-commerce unit is in discussions with NCR about a joint effort. The project will focus on integrating I-commerce with data-warehousing technology and is reportedly valued at $US17.5 million.

I continue to get more information on problems with Microsoft's math libraries. One developer told me that he's been aware of problems dating back to DOS versions of the C and C++ compilers and that those same problems still exist in the latest 16-bit versions of the compilers. The problem: if you used the default optimisation for a production .EXE, math routines did not always return correct values. To avoid the errors (typified in this programmer's case as divide-by-zero errors), turn off default optimisation.

Gates spreads the wealth

There was a time when I wouldn't consider the weekend complete until I'd played at least 36 holes of golf. I was a hack, and lucky to break into double digits. Still, I enjoyed the outdoors, the whiff of cigar smoke, and the people you'd meet while waiting to tee off. So when I heard Ted Waitt was getting up a foursome for his annual Pro-Am charity tournament, I scrubbed up my Pings and headed for Iowa.

My puddle jumper landed just in time to see Bill Gates step off a corporate jet. He was scheduled to play with Ted, along with former Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett and golfer Chris Smith, who was fresh from a win at Nike's Dakota Dunes Golf Open. Whispers around the links were that the ever-colourful Waitt wants to buy a baseball team. Brett, now an exec with the team, may have been pitching for KC, though with a new house in San Diego, the Padres may look more interesting to Ted.

As the foursome made its way to the 19th hole, I had to wonder how the side wagering went throughout the day. Does a billionaire nerd play quarter-a-hole golf?

My musing shifted into high gear two days later when Steve Jobs introduced the "mystery guest" to the Macworld crowd in Boston. To gasps of disbelief, Bill appeared via satellite to announce Microsoft's $US150 million investment in Apple.

"So that's the charity he played for," I chuckled to myself.

Amazing what Gates gets for so little money, considering his investment isn't quite half of the annual revenues Microsoft makes from Mac software sales. He keeps the Federal Trade Commission off his back, gets Internet Explorer on every Mac, and, who knows, maybe we'll see NT on a PowerMac before the year's out.

While Microsoft is spreading the wealth to Apple, one of its marketing departments may be spreading viruses. It's not the first time users claim to have downloaded infected files from the Microsoft site. But this time the Wazzu virus came via e-mail in an educational newsletter. Tip of the day: make sure your virus .DAT file is more up to date than Microsoft's.

Notes 4.5 Domino Server has an install problem of its own. If you install Domino Server with the "Install on File Server" choice selected when installing Domino, it trashes your system. Lotus knows about the problem but doesn't have a fix yet.

I got home from my East Coast journey to find a gift in the mail from Iomega, thanking me for buying an Iomega product. Funny, but it's been more than a year since I purchased anything from Iomega. The effectiveness of the company's marketing and customer loyalty campaign became clear when I opened the gift: a "special" CD-ROM with a free copy of Netscape Navigator 2.0.

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