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Mac cloner loses president

Power Computing president Joel Kocher resigns, citing "irreconcilable differences" with the company in its struggle to license the Mac OS.

Power Computing today announced the resignation of its president and chief operating officer, Joel Kocher.

Kocher's resignation comes at a critical time for the Mac clone maker, Joel Kocher which is trying to launch an initial public offering. In addition, rumors circulated today that Apple Computer (AAPL) was interested in buying Power. (See related story)

Kocher himself has been the subject of a different rumor involving Apple, that he was a candidate for the chief executive's spot there.

In a statement today, Kocher said: "I unfortunately have irreconcilable differences with Power Computing management over the way in which to move forward on the Apple licensing issue...I wish Power Computing, the employees, and the Mac platform the best during this difficult, uncertain period. I sincerely hope that Apple Computer ultimately does the right thing for the Mac community."

Kocher, who joined Power in early November of 1996, will also give up his seat on the board of directors, which he joined in June 30.

"Joel Kocher provided much guidance, direction, and vision during his tenure at Power Computing," Stephen Kahng, chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.

Power officials declined to elaborate on the differences between Kahng and Kocher.

Power has recently been rumored to be in talks to merge with Apple; the computer maker has been battling it out with the largest Macintosh clone producer over licensing of the new Mac OS.

Power is in a precarious position because it is the only Mac clone vendor that depends solely on sales of Mac-compatible products. The licensing and certification impasse is therefore having a ripple effect on the company's fortunes.

The company in the second quarter saw its sales fall 16 percent over year-ago figures and 21 percent from the previous quarter, according to Dataquest.

Power reported a 14.5 percent drop in revenues in the March 31 quarter, to $84.3 million, compared to the previous quarter. And the company's profits fell to $1 million in the quarter, from $3.9 million a year ago, according to its IPO registration filing in June.

The Mac clone maker had posted five consecutive quarters of revenue growth and three consecutive quarters of profits, prior to the March quarter.

Power, as well as other clone makers, agreed in principle in July to accept higher licensing fees, but Apple has since asked to raise the bar further. Some speculate that Apple's new board member and cofounder Steve Jobs played a role.

"Jobs may be tightening the screws in order to get them [the clone vendors] to accept a deal that will force the clones to a niche market. It could force them out of business without seeming to force them out of business...They would shrink and go away, but the only one not doing this is Power because they have an IPO and ambitious plans. They are not in a position to be able to just quietly go away," says one source close to Apple who wished to remain anonymous.

Power is hoping to raise $30 million in capital through its IPO.

But earlier this month, one of the underwriters said Power's plans to float out its offering by early September were put on hold shortly after the Macworld Expo in Boston. That's when Apple unveiled the $150 million investment from Microsoft and named its new board of directors--events that sent its stock rocketing upwards. Power decided to hold off on its IPO until Apple's stock price became less volatile, said one of the underwriters.