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Wall Street on Apple: "Next"

Despite making stunning announcements outlining its new operating-system strategy, Apple stock generates only a yawn from Wall Street.

Despite making stunning announcements outlining its new operating-system strategy, Apple Computer (AAPL) stock today generated a yawn from Wall Street and ended down at the market's close.

Apple shares closed at 23-1/4 a share, down 1/4 from Friday's close. Shares of the computer maker reached only as high as 24-1/4 a share during trading today. The computer maker announced late Friday that it would acquire Next Software in a $400 million cash and stock deal.

Apple's stock has slid from around $35 a share in January to about $18 a share in July. The stock moved upward, hitting the $28 range in October before sliding again to around $23.

Analysts said the stock performance came as no surprise. "I was surprised that it popped up at all. [The company] still has a long way to go and there is still cynicism about a new operating system," said Eugene Glazer, an analyst with Dean Witter Reynolds.

He noted that it takes time to meld two operating systems together and a new one may not arrive until late 1997 or later. Glazer noted the computer maker has had problems delivering its next-generation OS, pointing to the failed Copland plan.

Meanwhile, Michael Geran, an analyst with Pershing, a division of Donaldson, Lufkin, & Jenrette, said the magnitude of the purchase price also weighed down the stock, as well as the wait-and-see attitude of the market.

"How fast will they be able to modify a Unix system and in the same genre as Windows NT? [It's] is not an immediate solution in an immediate environment," Geran said.

Analysts like Charles Wolf with CS First Boston said a merger announcement involving Be would have likely resulted in a similar reaction from Wall Street. Apple had earlier been in negotiations to acquire Be, but talks broke down over price.

"If anything, the stock performed better with the merger with Next and Steve Jobs. He's seen as more of an important visionary than (Be chairman and CEO) Jean-Louis Gassée," Wolf said.

Under the deal, Apple expects to write off $300 million of the purchase price during the quarter ending March 31. The remaining $100 million will be amortized over the next five to seven years, company officials said.

Next, which expects to generate $50 million in revenues and break even this year, says it will post a profit during the first quarter in 1997 that ends March 31.