Umax faces obstacles in Mac notebooks

Umax is the latest vendor to say it will develop a Macintosh-compatible notebook PC.

Umax Data Systems of Taiwan, the parent company of Mac clone maker Umax Computer, said it will develop a Macintosh-compatible notebook PC.

The decision to produce a notebook based on the Common Hardware Reference Design (CHRP) specification follows Apple's decision not to license its notebook designs to clone vendors, according to a report in the online edition of Nikkei Business Publications.

Motorola Computer Group and Power Computing have already expressed a desire to make notebooks as well.

Umax would face a number of obstacles in designing a notebook, most notably a lack of experience, but the company is working with a leading Japanese notebook maker, according to the report.

The Common Hardware Reference Design, now referred to as the PowerPC Platform specification (PPCP), is intended to provide an open standard for PowerPC system designs that use industry-standard components. A necessary component of the CHRP platform is the CHRP-compliant version of Mac OS 8, due out in July.

Currently, each Apple notebook design requires a custom version of the Mac OS that adds features such as sleep mode and battery management, as well as software that recognizes the presence of special hardware present in notebook designs. Umax and the other clone vendors would have to engineer their own extensions to Mac OS 8 in order to make an efficient laptop.

But Apple could thwart clone vendors' notebook plans. The troubled company is interested in protecting its sales of notebooks, since they are highly profitable products and in high demand. Apple could decide to prevent Mac OS licensees from putting CHRP technology into a notebook.

"In our opinion, if you put CHRP into a portable form factor, that would comply with the terms of Apple's licensing program," said Dennis Schneider, vice president and general manager of MCG's commercial products division, "But there is no conclusive position from Apple on the issue."

Umax Computer is a Fremont, California-based subsidiary of Umax Data Systems, and it has not announced any plans to bring a Mac notebook to the U.S. market. Representatives at Umax Computer were not immediately available for comment.

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