By LEE GOMES
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
_Apple Computer_ Inc.'s takeover discussions with software maker Be Inc. are
part of a larger strategic debate inside Apple over whether it should work
more closely with _Microsoft_ Corp., several people close to Apple say.
As previously reported, the Apple-Be talks are in the preliminary stages. A
possible outcome includes anything from an outright purchase of Be, which
might cost upward of $100 million, to Apple's licensing Be technology or,
possibly, no deal at all.
But an Apple manager says the talks are connected to a major decision looming
at Apple over what the Cupertino, Calif., computer concern should do with
regard to Microsoft's Windows NT, the high-end operating system that is
rapidly winning acceptance in the corporate world. Currently, Apple has only
one operating system, and its replacement, known as Copland, is behind
One group at Apple, including many people in sales, says the company's only
hope may be to latch on to NT's growing popularity by licensing it and
offering it on Apple machines -- something Apple has confirmed it is
But others, some of them in engineering, want Apple to push Internet-style
intranet technology while offering many operating systems, including Apple's
own, NT and others. It is in connection with this latter option that the talks
with Be are being pursued, a person at Apple says. Proponents argue it is the
only way Apple can avoid being forever "at the mercy" of Microsoft, as one
official puts it.
A spokeswoman for Apple declined to comment. Be, a small, closely held
company in Mountain View, Calif., couldn't be reached.
Among many Macintosh users, word of the Apple-Be talks have created a
sensation. "Everyone is talking about it; the possibility is so exciting,"
said Ann Wrixon, executive director of the Berkeley (Calif.) Macintosh Users
Group, one of the nation's most-active collection of Mac zealots, where
membership has swollen to 10,000 from 7,000 in the last six months.