IBM and Apple agree to differ

(First Edition)

IBM and Apple Computer announced their long-awaited ``compatibility'' agreement yesterday, but it seems PCs and Macs still won't see eye to eye.

The two computer-makers, once arch-rivals, have agreed a common hardware standard for desktop computers, producing a machine capable of running on any of the competing operating systems now in use: Apple's easy-to-use Mac system, IBM's sophisticated new OS/2 system, or the combination of Microsoft's DOS and Windows that drives most of the world's PC clones. The common design will be driven by the fast new computer chip the two companies developed in partnership with Motorola, the PowerPC microprocessor.

But IBM and Apple - who agreed three years ago to team up to break Microsoft's dominance - were not able to agree on a shared software standard, disappointing computer users hoping for a common operating system that could run programs designed for one or the other. So the new machines, due some time in 1996, won't be ``multilingual'', even though they are capable of mastering any one of the various computing languages now available.

The development will be boon for companies that own a range of incompatible computers, using Apples for graphic publishing tasks, workstations for sophisticated number-crunching, an IBM database, and a network for Windows-based PCs for managers.

``The standard will simplify things enormously,'' said Ian Diery, head of Apple's personal computers division. ``You won't have to worry any more about which piece of hardware goes with which operating system.''

One type of machine will now be handle any of these jobs. But computer industry analysts complain that their users still won't be able to talk to each other very easily.

As a result, Apple enthusiasts will find many writers of applications software not bothering to create Mac versions of their programs. And IBM will continue to lose ground to Microsoft allies like Compaq.

``This was their last, best hope of breaking the Windows cartel,'' said one analyst.

Long-awaited deal, page 29

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