While takeover negotiations with Be Software remain stalled over price, Apple Computer has been talking to an unlikely potential alternative to revamp its operating systems strategy: ousted Apple founder Steve Jobs and his object oriented Nextstep software.
Apple remains close to signing off a deal to take over Be Software or license its software, but remains stuck on the matter of how much it should cost. Apple is reported to have offered $120 million, but Be is said to be holding out for a figure closer to $400 million, although some sources close to the company say that this has now dropped to $300 million.
The opening of the Mac World trade show in San Francisco on 7 January has become the deadline for Apple to tell the industry where its systems strategy is going. With less than a month to go, it has emerged that Jobs and Apple executives met last week to discuss the option of either buying or licensing Nextstep as a possible alternative to Be?s technology.
Apple declined to comment on either the Next speculation or the progress of the Be talks, but Next chairman Steve Jobs admitted that that he had been talking to Apple bosses. "I?ve given them a little bit of advice, but that?s about it," he said with unaccustomed reticence.
Nextstep is an object oriented operating system developed by Next Computer, the company started by Jobs when he was ousted from Apple. Following the demise of the IBM-Apple Taligent project to develop a rival, Nextstep remains the only fully object oriented operating system on the market.
But Be is still the favoured option for Apple in the eyes of most industry commentators. It is believed that an integration plan to merge Be into Apple has already been agreed in principle. This would see all 50 Be employees being offered posts at Apple with founder Jean-Louis Gassee reporting directly to Apple chief technology officer Ellen Hancock. But a second bone of contention is rumoured to be a demand by Be that it should be allocated one seat on the Apple board of directors.
Be?s Be OS will ship with Macintosh clones from Power Computing in January, but the company is not restricting its attentions to the Mac universe. It is set to port its operating system to the Intel x86 platform, clearing the way for any Intel-based supplier to licence the Be OS.
Intel would not comment on the progress of the porting work or even if it was taking place, but a Be spokesperson kept the company?s options open by commenting: "It is our intention to eventually look at other architectures. We?ll have to see about the timing."
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