Apple Computer’s story has always been melodramatic. Larry Ellison, according to an InfoWorld story (www.infoworld.com) is strongly leaning towards pursuing his take-over bid for Apple. The saga is beginning to beg for sale to George Lucas. See the Flamboyant Jobs return to save the empire. See the mysterious despiser of all-things-Gates-represents bring in the jedi bankers. And, if Ellison gets his way, watch Apple become a completely different company. Ellison is floating the idea of turning Apple into a network computer vendor. Network computers are low cost computers that envision everyone doing the same tasks with the same software on inexpensive machines hooked to a high-powered network server. Apple has strong followings in education, broadcasting, small business and those who despise everything Bill Gates stands for… err want an alternative. Ellison’s network computer may be workable in a few larger school districts and well-funded small businesses that have enough machines to justify a high-powered server. In the other cases, it seems likely that the cost/benefit analysis will fail or that the power of the machines will simply not be up to task. In fact power may be a key issue. 300 MHz consumer Macs and 400 MHz MacOS workstations will be a reality by the end of summer. And frighteningly overpowered as that may be, industry benchmarks show that the machines are significantly faster MHz for MHz than computers based on even the latest revisions of the pentium procesor. The saga of Apple has long since passed into the camp of truth is stranger than fiction. If Ellison does buy Apple, and he does completely refocus the company on the network computer –both still ifs– the Apple turn-around that seems to be building a head of steam, will probably evaporate as much of the customer base Ellison desires looks to the greener pastures of Windows, Sparc and Linux.
Although I didn’t stumble on his editorial until I wrote the above piece, Dave Winer (www.scripting.com) makes an even less optimistic assessment of Apple’s current situation, arguing from other evidence. Apple is famous, notorious in some quarters, for miracles. But, with the market forces that are Oracle, Sun and MicroSoft pounding Apple’s once comfortable corner of the landscape, the miracles of megahertz, modern operating systems, niche-marketing and personality may not be enough this time. It will make a great tragic epic for the silver screen, though.
Yahoo has a good article on Ellison’s current NC sales pitch.