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Mac software's last hurrah?

Macworld Expo Macworld brings a host of new software products specially designed for the Mac. But if Apple's ship begins to sink, this may be the last year we see such a selection.

Macworld Expo SAN FRANCISCO--As Apple (AAPL) embarks upon its dual-OS strategy, this year's long list of software demos and releases at the Macworld Expo belies the uncertainty looming over the future of the Mac platform.

Apple has so far garnered many promises of support from major developers for both the current System 7 operating system and Rhapsody, the modern OS based on Next Software technology and due out in limited form later this year.

This year's software crop notwithstanding, Apple must convince its developers that it can reverse its declining hardware marketshare and maintain the evolving System 7's commercial appeal. At the same time, the company must prove that Rhapsody will become a lasting platform, popular into the next century, that will eventually take the place of System 7.

The following roundup is the tip of the iceberg of announcements, but it could be the last great hurrah for Mac products if developers sense that the Apple ship is sinking.

Leading the charge, Apple itself is making several software announcements. Here are the most significant:

  • Cyberdog 2.0 becomes the latest version of Apple's suite of Internet-enabled OpenDoc components that let users mix and match software parts in a single document. For example, a Cyberdog text message can include a spreadsheet, a Web browsing window, and hyperlinked text.

  • QuickTime VR 2.0 features an enhanced programming interface for developers working in the C language.

  • Apple's software division Claris will show off Emailer 2.0, an all-in-one email inbox that handles multiple email accounts. Claris is also bundling its application suite, Claris Works 4.0, with the Web design program Home Page 2.0 for $99.

  • The number-one Mac developer Microsoft is making a big show of support this week. It took part in Gil Amelio's keynote extravaganza and announced the formation of the Macintosh Product Unit, a 100-person division devoted to the Office-for-Macintosh application suite. Microsoft has announced an update to Office for Mac. Redmond is also releasing Mac versions of Internet Explorer 3.0, the FrontPage Web publishing tool, and an ActiveX toolkit.

  • Canadian software giant Corel is demonstrating its Print House graphics tool now available on the Mac side for $39.95. Corel is also previewing WordPerfect 4.0 which, like Cyberdog, can host OpenDoc software components. A host of smaller vendors will also demonstrate or ship OpenDoc components at the show.

  • GoLive Systems is releasing its CyberStudio Web design program that maintains HTML format at all stages of the production process, allowing users to swap files across platforms. With CyberStudio, designers can create a page with a layout tool or with HTML source code. In the layout mode, the designer creates an outline grid of each page, then places elements by dragging and dropping them onto the grid. CyberStudio supports CyberDog, AppleScript, and QuickTime 2.5.

  • Connectix will preview its latest teleconferencing program, VideoPhone 2.0. It will work with the Windows version of the product and support Quicktime Conferencing, text chat, and dynamic TCP/IP addresses. It will ship in February for $60.

  • DigiMarc announced the availability of its free ReadMarc software that scans downloaded images for digital watermarks. DigiMarc's digital-watermark technology, included in Adobe Photoshop 4.0 and CorelDraw 7, lets image creators mark their work with an encoded pattern, invisible to the naked eye but detectable by Readmarc. Readmarc then notifies the viewer that the image is copyrighted. Readmarc is available from Digimarc's Web site.

  • PaceWorks announced Vectorium, a QuickTime extension that compresses animations for playback within a Web browser. Vectorium is able to compress animation files that mix bitmap and vector graphics. The authoring component will be available in PaceWorks' ObjectDancer animation tool, while the client-side QuickTime extension will be available as a free download from the company's Web site. Beta versions will be available by the end of this quarter.