July 22, 1997 6:30 PM PDT

Apple, cloners still at odds

Apple Computer's (AAPL) new operating system, which debuted today, is not getting into the hands of everybody wanting a copy.

Namely, Mac clone vendors have yet to receive their copies to ship to customers and were conspicuously absent from a series of OS 8-related announcements today.

While Apple is expected to ship the new OS to retail customers on time for sales beginning this Saturday, none of the Mac clone vendors have indicated they've signed agreements to license the new software.

Apple confirmed today its failure to strike a deal with clone vendors. No agreements have been signed, said Guerrino De Luca, a vice president at Apple.

Clone vendors are key to the success of the Mac, as evidenced by their ability to take an increasingly larger share of the market.

But sources at the various clone vendors report that they are still in the midst of drawing up agreements.

The Mac OS 8 is an important release for clone vendors since it is part and parcel of the Common Hardware Reference Platform (CHRP), also referred to as the PowerPC Reference Platform. Mac OS 8 and CHRP-compliant hardware are key technologies that will allow Mac clone vendors to enhance system performance and introduce new products more rapidly.

Ideally, it is also supposed to let Mac clone vendors compete more freely, with fewer licensing and technical ties to Apple, though this may not happen to the degree that some clone makers had hoped for.

Power Computing indicated in documentation filed with its initial public offering to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it has continued to negotiate with Apple to use the Macintosh OS, but to no avail.

As a fallback, the clone maker is also sublicensing the OS from IBM, a fact also revealed in the filing. The company signed this agreement with IBM about six months ago, according to sources close to IBM.

"The company's license agreement with IBM is more favorable than the Mac OS agreement [with Apple] in certain respects, and the company is increasingly relying on this agreement for its rights to the Mac OS," according to the filing.

Motorola has also stated in no uncertain terms that to its consternation negotiations have not gone well. At one point the company walked away from talks, angered at Apple?s stance.

"The risk of a week gone by gets bigger every day," said Dennis Schneider, vice president and general manager of Motorola Computer Group's commercial products division, in a statement made last month.

Delays in licensing the OS could result in Motorola having to delay introduction of products with new 603 and 604 PowerPC chips as well as next-generation PowerPC chips, Schneider added. "We have manufacturing capacity and parts suppliers committed to products," he said.

 

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