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Norton Utilities revved for the Mac

Symantec announces a new version of its top-selling programs in a significant signal of support for the Mac operating system.

Symantec, developer of several top-selling Mac software programs, today announced a new version of its Norton Utilities programs in a significant signal of support for upcoming versions of the Macintosh operating system.

Symantec says that Norton Utilities 4.0 has the potential to encourage customer migration to newer versions of the Mac because its software is now compatible with the new file system used in Mac OS 8.1 and the next major revision of the Mac OS, called Mac OS 8.5.

The program can also be used on the popular new iMac, which uses a slightly modified version of the Mac OS.

Norton 4.0 is a software program that is used to backup, repair, and restore data, as well as optimize disk performance. By adding support for Apple's "HFS+" file system in the newest release, customers with large numbers of Macs may be more likely to install the newest versions of the Mac OS, said David Loomstein, senior product manager for Symantec.

"It's important to be compatible and on top of OS development in a timely fashion," Loomstein said. The gap between the announcement of Mac OS 8.1 in January of 1998 and this month's release of Norton 4.0 caused some customers to worry, he acknowledged.

Mac customers worried because they have seen support for the platform waver in recent years as the company lost market share and money--earlier this year Intuit, a developer of financial software for the Mac, dropped development of new versions of some software, but was later persuaded to continue development.

But Symantec says it has made significant investments in updating one of its core products, and the work will result in a program that will be compatible with OS 8.5, due in mid-October. Additionally, the company is well on its way toward developing software for OS X, a version of the Mac OS due in late 1999 that will offer modern features found in other OS environments.

"We're happy with our Mac business," Loomstein stated, noting that the company is experiencing "outstanding" growth in part because Apple has righted its own ship and has been turning a profit in 1998.

Among the new features offered in Norton 4.0, the Disk Doctor utility diagnoses and repairs a variety of disk ailments simultaneously, reducing the repair time significantly from previous versions. Symantec has revamped the user interface for easier operation and the program offers improved integration of other program components, making data recovery easier, the company claims.

Any floppy disk or hard disk drives added through Universal Serial Bus (USB) connections will be supported by the end of the year, an important feature for iMac users who can only hook up peripherals through USB ports.

The critical components of the software are also now fully PowerPC native, meaning that no translation has to occur for the program to run on PowerPC chips. That results in improved performance, the company said.

Norton Utilities for the Macintosh version 4.0 will be priced at $99 for PowerPC-based systems, with upgrades from previous versions priced at $49.95. A version of the program for Macs with 68000-series Motorola processors will be available by the end of the year, according to Symantec.