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Nashville Scene If the Suit Fits

Apple makes a comeback.

By James Hanback Jr.

MAY 26, 1998:  Here's a metaphor for the major turnaround in productivity and innovation at Apple Computer Inc.: The rotting fruit that littered the computer industry's garden in the early- to mid-1990s has gone to seed and given life to a whole new orchard.

The good old days are here again for the Mac fanatic, while Bill Gates and Microsoft are undergoing serious government scrutiny. Over the weekend, talks between Microsoft and the justice department collapsed when the government demanded that the company package Internet Explorer's competitor, Netscape Navigator, with Windows '98. The Macintosh operating system already bundles both packages, but Internet Explorer is the default Web browser.

Meanwhile, Apple's consumer version of its long-awaited next generation OS Rhapsody has reportedly been dumped in favor of MacOS X. Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs made the announcement last week.

"X," as it's known, will combine the Macintosh operating system technology with new technology developed for Rhapsody. It will be released for developers in early 1999, and a consumer release is scheduled for later in the year.

Like Microsoft's now-shaky plans for Windows '98, MacOS X will reportedly offer greater integration between the operating system and the Internet.

Although Jobs did not say exactly how the integration is supposed to work, Microsoft's Internet Explorer seems a likely candidate for bridging the gap between the Mac's friendly desktop and Cyberspace. IE is currently the default Web browser in the MacOS 8.0 and 8.1 operating systems, as it is in the hotly debated Windows environment. Windows '98 has been the focus of a major U.S. justice department investigation as a result of Microsoft's attempts to blend IE 4.0 with the Windows interface.

Although modern Macintosh products come with both IE and its rival Netscape Navigator already installed, new users have a difficult time distinguishing between the two. They may never even know Navigator is on their hard drive.

Apple's plans to create an Internet-integrated operating system may be Bill Gates' perfect opportunity to point his finger at Apple and say, "See there! Microsoft does not have a monopoly!" That's provided Internet Explorer does not remain the Macintosh default Web browser and Apple chooses another or a new technology to be the bridge for integration.

Hmmmmm. And Bill Gates bought a piece of Apple in 1997. Somehow, I think he'll get his way, no matter what.


Bytes

More days in court

Sun Microsystems' victory earlier this year required Microsoft to remove the Java emblem from its altered-Java Windows software. Now Sun's legal team has filed another court motion to block Windows '98 from its June release date unless Microsoft changes its Windows Java implementation.

Windows implements a bastard version of the programming language allegedly not allowed under the license agreement between Microsoft and Sun.

Microsoft's changes also violate Sun's Java promise: "Write once, run anywhere," which means that the Java programming language works on any operating system that supports a Java runtime. Such systems include Windows, Macintosh, and Unix. Microsoft's version allegedly changes or adds some code so that it only works with Windows.

Looks like Gates will face a battle to the bitter end. If Windows '98 gets out to consumers (Microsoft planned to ship to vendors this week) before the government can do anything about its incorporation of Internet Explorer 4.0 and its implementation of Java, there will probably be a new operating system standard on the market. And it will be far too late to stop it.

Windows '98 is expected to ship to stores on June 25.

Electronics manufacturer Sony has already announced a $999 computer it plans to sell in June bundled with Windows '98, an Intel Celeron processor, and DVD-ROM drive.

I don't want my HDTV

Starting next year the American public will finally start to see high definition television sets (or HDTV) roll into the market. The sets have been available in Japan for years, but the U.S. had a hard time deciding how it would market HDTV, or how it would deal with consumers reluctant to change to new digital technology from the old analog system.

Not only does HDTV mean a change in picture quality, sound, and screen size, but it also means that broadcasting companies won't be using the airwaves in exactly the same way they did before. The digital "revolution" is also catching up with radio.

HDTV advocates in the television industry have repeatedly assured the public that analog television would be around for a long time to come and that the conversion would be slow.

The question remains, who's going to change? It's rumored that the new sets will be priced in the thousands of dollars, meaning HDTV could go the way of the Apple Lisa--overpriced and, therefore, unwanted.

As a result, I may not make the change. I may just junk my television set in favor of my personal computer (prices for that technology continue to drop) and the Internet (which only costs a low monthly rate to your service provider). True, the visual quality and sound quality of HDTV is probably farther away for the Internet than it is from television, but I'm not particularly bothered by that.

Television shows (even the so-called news shows) are so full of misandry and other repetitive themes in the '90s that TV is no longer entertaining anyway. At least with the Internet you're not force-fed what you see.


James Hanback Jr. is systems administrator for the Scene. E-mail him at james@nashscene.com.


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