Apple is expected to jump on the Linux bandwagon next month when it launches a PowerPC-based machine that will come bundled with the open source operating system (OS).
The hardware supplier reportedly plans to announce the new offering as part of a wider family at the MacWorld show in San Francisco in January to try and satisfy one of its strongest and most loyal customer segments - the education market.
The new family will be based on 333-400-MHz G3 PowerPC processors and be similar to in specification to existing mini-towers and desktops.
But Mike Kwatinetz, an analyst with Credit Suisse First Boston, said: "Linux is catching on, especially in education. It?s an opportunity for Apple to reassert itself in the college arena, where it is losing ground."
University laboratories and dorm rooms are a target because Apple hopes cusotmers will use Linux for research and batch data processing, and the MacOS for graphical applications, multimedia applications and desktop publishing.
The company has spent the past year working with standards body, The Open Group, to port Linux code to the Macintosh platform, and it finally posted MkLinux, its microkernel-based version for the Power Macintosh, as freeware on its Web site this July, after working on it for several years.
MkLinux is a full Linux port with a full set of GNU tools and accessories, including X11R6, which run on top of the Mach microkernel. The microkernel handles interprocess communication, low-level I/O, memory management and scheduling.
But sources said the new machines will not run Apple?s own MkLinux, but are likely to come bundled with MkLinux Developer Release 3 (DR3), which was launched this summer. According to Apple, DR3 is based on version 5.0 of Red Hat?s Linux and runs under both PowerPC and Intel.
The Linux faithful will receive another gift this holiday season, however, in the shape of version 2.2 of the open source version of the OS, which is expected to be released before Christmas.
The upgrade will support such 64-bit processors as Sparc64, Compaq?s Alpha and the PowerPC. Sound and graphics subsystems have been improved and support for other network peripherals such as ISDN, cable and V.90 modems has been included.
The offering is also expected to work with Macintosh HFS drives, Windows NTFS and Windows 98's Fat32 file formats.
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