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Apple opens arms, tries to calm fears

Trying to calm fears, Apple espoused its new open-standards philosophy.

SAN JOSE, California--Apple Computer tried to give quiet reassurance that all is well with the company by promoting its Internet and intranet strategies at the Mactivity '96 trade show here today.

After years of going its own way, Apple has adopted the open-standards philosophy in pursuit of its intranet strategy. "[Apple will be] committed to any vendor that is truly committed to open Internet standards. We will contribute our own technologies such as QuickTime back to the Internet and focus on ease of use and multimedia content," Larry Tesler, vice president of Apple's Internet Development Group, said in his keynote address.

In support of his claim, Tesler promised that the complete Apple product line will be Java-enabled, including the Newton handheld computer and the Pippin Internet box. The company will continue to promote QuickTime as an Internet standard for multimedia content, but new versions of the viewer will be able to view a movie as it downloads, including those stored in MPEG format. Industry standard TCP/IP communications protocols will also become a core component of the Mac OS, Tesler said.

As evidence that Apple will be able to deliver, Tesler displayed NetFinder, which lets system administrators and Webmasters using Mac OS servers distribute documents online using the look and feel of the Mac file structure.

Tesler also gave a preview of two data-independent viewers from Apple's labs. The ProjectX viewers, as they are being called, use a new file format called MCF (Meta Content Format) that Apple would like to see become a standard.

One viewer allows users to navigate Web sites, databases or file information in 3D space. Tesler demonstrated the technology by showing a 3D representation of Yahoo catalogs.

By looking at the information this way, the user can see as many as 1,000 nodes in a hierarchical file structure by looking at a single small file, instead of having to scroll through page after page to look at the same information. For those more accustomed to 2D space, Tesler also demonstrated an HTML viewer that looks similar to the Macintosh finder.

Both viewers will be available as Windows and Macintosh plug-ins for Navigator. Beta versions are expected to be available in two weeks.

Some 800 people crowded into Tesler's presentation. Reflecting the uncomfortably common Apple disappointments in recent months, most seemed to come away impressed with what they saw but not with reassurances about the company's future.

Wayne Hale, a Webmaster and systems administrator for TRW, says the products shown, particularly NetFinder and Cyberdog, would help his company communicate through a mix of PCs and Macs.

"I think Apple has really changed. They realized they aren't going to dominate the market and that they need to be as cross-platform as they can be to survive," Hale said. "I just hope it's not too little, too late."

In related news, a number of companies unveiled their products at Mactivity:
--Terry Morse Software announced the availability of Myrmidon, a Mac-only tool that automatically converts any document, even spreadsheets, into a Web page with one click.
--Netmanage announced the release of ChameleonNFS, which allows corporate users to share files over cross-platform networks using a Mac OS interface. Client users can mount a server using the Mac Chooser, just like any AppleShare server. The program observes the native file system security standards, regardless of platform.
--Natural Intelligence Software announced that they are dropping the price of their Java development package called Roaster. Price has dropped from $299 to $199, and buyers will have the option of a one-issue non-developer release version for $129. The company also announced it released version 2.1 of Roaster, which incorporates speed improvements and other functional additions.
--Maxum Development said it is shipping an upgraded version of a Mac-based Web crawler that scans sites and builds a searchable index of HTML pages.
--PowerProduction Software has a drag and drop Java Applet builder called WebBurst available for a retail price of $299.

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