January 27, 1997
Look down the org chart for Amelio's real find at Next
Nothing happens in a vacuum -- a truism that perhaps is nowhere more true
than in the world of corporate computing. You've got to look at events from
different perspectives and figure out how a new product or direction in the
computer industry is going to play out at your site.
I hope this column can help. My 15 years as a technology consultant and
integrator have given me lots of exposure to corporate and technical issues
and allowed me to develop a kind of industry instinct for how trends can
play out. My goal for Between the Lines is to look beyond the reported
facts or well-grounded rumors of a particular situation to provide more
information. By combining my consulting experience with my industry-related
intuition, I hope to offer insights that may even prompt you to revisit
your computing commitments or put them into sharper focus.
A good case in point is the recent series of events surrounding Apple. In
buying Next, Apple CEO Gil Amelio has given corporate buyers a sense of
hope that Apple will revive its development efforts. Delivering on that
hope rests on the timely completion of Rhapsody, the forthcoming Next-based
OS. By committing to providing "full" compatibility for current computers
as well as support for existing applications, Apple has given existing
customers a reason not to leave quite yet. With the projected integration
of Next's technology into Apple's, the loyal corporate Macintosh fans have
more hope of long-term support than they have seen in the past two years.
And this is precisely what Apple needs. Amelio can keep Apple on the
business market's radar screen by leveraging his newest asset -- Steve
Jobs. He needs to leverage this "adviser," arguably the industry's best
sales visionary, to ensure that Apple has a future.
But the biggest potential for success for Mac-oriented corporate users
almost went unseen. The appointment of Avadis Tevanian as Apple's new vice
president of next-generation OS efforts gives Apple a realistic chance of
merging the two operating systems. Tevanian is a richly talented programmer
and leader who was a principal designer of the Mach OS, the base of the
Next OS. Through many changes at Next, he stayed and was committed to the
success of his OS for the past nine years.
Tevanian will need his conviction and talent to overcome many of the
challenges that accompany any OS transition, let alone one as complex as
Rhapsody stands to be. Corporate users still have very vivid memories of
the challenges surrounding the transition to Windows 95.
Still, wise corporate loyalists will pay close attention to delivery dates
and technological promises. Any shortcomings will be greatly amplified,
threatening the gains made. (But as a hedge for any Apple misstep,
loyalists hold hope in Be as the white knight with a promising OS that
plans to fully support existing Mac applications.)
So I believe that Apple will continue to have an interesting relationship
with corporate America in the next few years. For those organizations
currently running Macintoshes, fears should be somewhat alleviated. But
remember that Apple now has to deliver on these promises. Then again, until
recently, it didn't even have the promises.
Just as news and technology have ripple effects, I won't be able to create
this column in a vacuum. I invite your participation. Feel free to send me
e-mail with your comments, suggestions, and feedback.
Finally, I look forward to earning your readership.
Mark Tebbe is the founder of Lante Corp., a leading consulting and
integration company. He can be reached at email@example.com