This time, sources say, the deal would not mean that IBM would directly manufacture Mac clones. Instead, the agreement would simply make it easier for IBM to promote the manufacture of such systems by other third-party vendors by sublicensing the operating system along with the PowerPC chips required to make Mac clones. Currently, clone makers are required to license the OS from Apple and then negotiate a second license for PowerPC chips from IBM or Motorola. Motorola signed a comparable licensing deal with Apple in February.
Apple officials declined to comment on the deal, but sources said the ink is almost dry.
While many Apple observers were rooting for IBM to become a Mac clone maker and immediately expand the supply of Mac systems, this more indirect vote of support might still lend credibility and convenience to Apple's licensing program. The company has signed several licensing deals, but none so far with a major U.S. PC vendor.
Still, the deal with IBM by itself can't rescue Apple from its financial struggles. Two weeks ago, Apple announced that it expects a loss of about $700 million for the current quarter, attributing the loss to overstocked inventory and management restructuring.