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Apple looks into future

Macworld Expo Apple will try to strengthen Net capabilities of the Mac OS by unveiling the beta version of a new networking technology called FutureShare.

Macworld Expo Apple Computer (AAPL) will move to strengthen the Internet capabilities of the Mac OS by unveiling the beta version of a new networking technology called FutureShare at the Macworld trade show in San Francisco next week, according to sources.

FutureShare is a revamping of the Mac OS's existing networking technology, AppleShare, which gives Mac users access to files, databases, printers, and other network devices and applications. But while AppleShare is based on proprietary Apple protocols, FutureShare will use TCP/IP--the standard protocol for the Internet--making it easier for Windows PC and other computers to get access to data and applications on Mac servers.

With the new networking technology, for example, PC users will be able to get access to files on Mac servers using standard FTP client software, rather than requiring special client software. The technology will also make it easier to set up a Web server on a Mac.

But while analysts expect FutureShare to improve the popularity of the Mac as an Internet server, it remains to be seen whether the technology will be a serious competitor to existing network operating systems.

"It won't replace an NT server or Sun server," said James Staten, an industry analyst with Dataquest. "Most likely, people will use this as an intranet thing."

Staten said the initial release of FutureShare may not be able to match the performance offered by other network operating systems. With its recent acquisition of Next Software though, Apple is making a larger push to strengthen its Mac OS to include multitasking and other capabilities--improvements that could make the Mac a more attractive Internet server platform. However, elements of Next's OS aren't expected to show up in the Mac until the very end of 1997.

In the meantime, FutureShare will, at the very least, boost Apple's commitment to make the Mac more Internet-friendly.

"The big thing this does for Apple is they say they're becoming an Internet-centric company," Staten said. "This goes to the core of that."