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Apple: What's next?


Apple managed to keep itself in the limelight throughout the year. But more often that not, it was for the wrong reasons.

"Been there. Done that," was Apple's retort to Microsoft's release of Windows 95 in August of 1995. But while it was flaunting its operating system's technical superiority in public, 1996 revealed that Apple's own OS strategy was rotten to the core. And with the Next acquisition, the company which was once known for its technical innovations, publicly acknowledged it was intellectually bankrupt.

"We decided to go with Plan A, instead of Plan B," quipped Gil Amelio at the press conference announcing the purchase of Next instead of Be. What he didn't mention was Plan D, for desperation. If there was ever a desperate act in the computer industry, this had to be it. The courtship of this marriage of convenience began the week of Thanksgiving and ended the week before Christmas. One has to wonder what would have happened if only Taligent (the Apple-IBM partnership to build the next-generation OS) were still alive.

As for the rest of the year, here are a few terms that should help jog the memory: Snapple (the rumored Sun-Apple merger). Diesel (the firing of Michael "the Diesel" Spindler). The Doctor is in the house (the hiring of Dr. Gil Amelio to replace Spindler). Losses ($69 million in the first quarter; $740 million for the second quarter). Layoffs (last spring's plan to cut 2800 workers). BeMac (the company's dalliance with Be).

After the Apple-Next merger, the most common headline was: "What's Next for Apple." What next indeed?