Apple seeks salvation

The firm is zealously trying to win over its developers, says Andrew North
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Apple Computer has changed and will win back its long-suffering flock. The company, based in Cuppertino, California, which declared a massive loss earlier this year, is tackling its problems with evangelical zeal. That was the message Apple executives were trying to put across at its annual European Developers' Forum, held in London last week.

Not the least of these problems is its relations with developers, the external software specialists who produce applications for the Apple Mac and therefore ensure that it attracts buyers. Many complain they have often been left in the dark about Apple's plans. "European developers have been treated abominably in the past," said one delegate.

Heidi Roizen, Apple's worldwide head of developer relations, admitted the company had lost touch but assured the audience things were changing. "We now have 45 staff working on developer relations at Cuppertino, compared with none last year." She also made great play of the fact that Apple had flown 50 of its technicians over from headquarters. Among them were people with quasi-religious titles like "International Technologies Evangelist".

Despite all this earnest preaching, the company has been unable to dampen rumours surrounding plans for its much-delayed new operating system, Mac OS8. The original plan, code-named Copland, had to be abandoned, although elements will be incorporated in two System 7 upgrades to be released next year.

Many believe Apple is considering buying the new OS developed by Be Inc. Ellen Hanworth, chief technological officer, maintained the Apple line of not commenting directly on the rumours. Nor would she give a release date for OS8, although she promised to announce one before Christmas. When pressed on Be, she said: "Be is an Apple developer and gets developer support in the same way as any other." But she stated that "my current plan is that my team will be building the new operating system". Intriguingly, Be Inc was exhibiting its Be OS, which is due to be released in January, at the conference.

But the old Apple has not all been peeled away. At the beginning of the conference, David Krathwohl, director of international developer relations, invited everyone to introduce themselves to their neighbour and chat for a few minutes before the speaking began.

"Just like a Christian meet," smiled one delegate. "Very Apple"