After Apple's decision to buy Power Computing and change its licensing policies, Motorola's exit from the Mac clone market last week left only one Mac clone maker - Umax - in the game. With Umax's MacOS 8 licence only lasting until July next year, serious doubts are also hanging over whether even it will survive.
Motorola's decision late last week didn't really come as any surprise.
Even Joe Guglielmi, Motorola Computer Group's corporate vice president and general manager, appeared to think the announcement was inevitable.
"We had no choice," he said. "The decision was the result of our conviction that there was no more we could achieve by continued discussion. Apple closed down licensing long-term. Without Apple's support, there is no viable cloning model."
The company said it will continue to sell clones until the end of the year and expand its support of existing and new customers to a year of free phone support.
However, unlike the deal Umax made with Apple last week, Motorola's systems will ship with MacOS 7.6.1, not MacOS 8.
Guglielmi confirmed that the major reason behind the company's decision to pull out of the Mac clone market was Apple's decision not to support the Common Hardware Reference Platform (CHRP). Motorola was due to release its first CHRP machines this month.
He also reassured that few Motorola employees would be laid off as a result of the decision. Technical staff have been reassigned to other areas such as embedded systems.
Samer Roumieh, who heads up Motorola's clone division for Europe, Middle East and Africa, found it hard to hide his feelings: "We are very disappointed.
We came into this market at Apple's request and we started to invest heavily in the market."
According to Roumieh, the two companies had met back in June to discuss licensing and Apple had agreed "in principle" to let Motorola ship CHRP machines. "But then they changed their mind." said Roumieh. "CHRP was our vehicle of innovation."
Roumieh also said users were very disappointed. "With the clone market they had a better level of choice. I hope that Apple can now satisfy its customer base and expand it. Once all the dust settles it will be up to the Mac customers to decide whether Apple survives."
Following the announcement sources close to IBM revealed that the company would give up its right to license MacOS 8.
According to the sources, since Apple's buyout of Power Computing and the squashing of the clone market, IBM believes there is no reason for it to carry on licensing the MacOS.
According to US reports, IBM is notifying its two sub-licensees, Tatung of Taiwan and Akia of Japan, of its decision. Both companies had designed Macs using IBM's Long Trail CHRP design, which Apple is now refusing to certify.
IBM is also reported to be ending licensing discussions with around 10 companies in Asia and Europe that were looking to ship CHRP-based Macs and get a MacOS licence through IBM.
Despite this, the company will continue to develop PowerPC chips for Macs and will continue its development of PowerPC chips for other markets, such as embedded systems.
Both IBM and Motorola have agreed to extend their PowerPC design partnership to include chips for embedded systems. Previously they had concentrated solely on chips for desktops.
Meanwhile, some industry experts have said that while the decisions Apple has made over the past few weeks have made sense - Apple needs to return to profitability and licensing was preventing it from doing that - there are concerns that customers will be picking up the tab. Competition within the Mac market from the cloners forced Apple to keep prices down. With the removal of that competition, does this mean prices will start to rise?
One of Apple's UK customers, the Body Shop, is not concerned. Patrick Ballin, the company's desktop strategy manager, commented: "I think the competition will still be there but from the Intel market. This will work to our advantage, Apple has to stay competitive with the Intel world."
But while Ballin said he wasn't worried over prices, he is still waiting to see what the effects of these recent changes are.
"Basically, we have a very significant investment in Macs." Ballin went on to say that his staff are currently building up their NT skills and building towards new software standards. "We'll be well equipped whatever happens," he said.
Apple last week lost its biggest Mac user, Mercury, to Intel. The company had standardised on the Mac platform since the early 90s.
Even Gil Amelio, ex-Apple CEO, had something to say about Apple's recent activities.
Speaking to a US radio station last week, he said he disagreed with Apple's decision to abandon its Mac clone strategy and in particular, he said he would not have alienated Motorola. "I think the relationship with Motorola goes back 20 years and it is absolutely essential to keep that on track."
When asked if Apple had made a gross mistake, he said: "On the surface of it, it certainly doesn't look like it's going in the right direction."
Amelio also said that the Mac cloners made Apple more competitive. "Apple was a great innovator, but I thought we needed to be a great competitor, and I felt the clones helped us do that."
Despite being ousted out of Apple earlier this year, Amelio said he agreed with the decision to bring Steve Jobs back. "I told him, 'Steve, I'll never be as charismatic as you are, and you'll never be as good an operating manager as I am. You can't run a corporation just by being cool.'"
When asked who he thought was the best candidate for the job, he said he recommended Intuit chief executive and Apple board member Bill Campbell.
As the dust began to settle, Apple announced its first Mac desktop systems to ship with MacOS 8.
Its new 6500 6500/272 machines are aimed at small businesses and come with a 6Gb hard drive, a 24X CD-ROM, a 56kbps modem and internal 100Mb Zip drive for backup data and storage.
MOTOROLA: CUSTOMER CONCERNS FOLLOWING ANNOUNCEMENT
Customers questions answered
Can I still buy a StarMax system?
Motorola will continue to market and ship its StarMax 3000, 4000 and 5000 series of products while demand and inventories last. The company has also enhanced its current five year warranty extending telephone support by one year.
What is the status of MacOS 8 on StarMax 5000 systems?
StarMax 3000, 4000 and 5000 products ship with MacOS 7.6. StarMax 5000 customers are eligible for a free upgrade to MacOS 8 (In the US and Canada only) MacOS 8 may be installed on any StarMax system but Motorola strongly suggests customers refer to the installation procedures outlined on the StarMax web site.
What is the status of the StarMax Pro 6000?
Apple has withdrawn its commitment to support CHRP-based MacOS systems.
As a result, Motorola will not be shipping the StarMax Pro 6000.
What effect does this have on Motorola Computer Group's future business?
Motorola Computer Group continues to be the leading vendor of VME and industrial computer systems and embedded board products sold to OEMs in technical and embedded markets. Additionally, Motorola will continue to investigate new opportunities leveraging core competencies in integrating communications with computing.
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