Apple Computer Inc has made a lot of enemies in the last few months by executing a series of spectacular U-turns. One such enemy is Exponential Technology Inc, the high performance PowerPC chip maker that was forced to exit its core business in May due to licensing restrictions from Apple and a lack of funds (CI No 3,158). Four months on, and with its Mac business gone, Exponential has filed suit against Apple, claiming breach of contract and $500m in damages. Apple was one of the original funders of Exponential, which was started in 1993. It was rumored to be considering using Exponential’s high clock-speed, biCMOS technology PowerPC chips in its own computers. But Exponential had problems reaching its ambitious performance goals, which discouraged Apple from using its technology. More importantly, Exponential says it was hampered by Apple’s failure to open up the PowerPC technology sufficiently. The licensing restrictions over the Apple ROM meant that Exponential was unable to sell its technology to the clonemakers either, and left it with no customers and no revenues. Since then, of course, Apple has backed out of the clone business altogether. Exponential has now laid off most of its staff and closed down its San Jose, California base. It claims that Apple vetoed the sale of faster chips to clonemakers Power Computing Corp and Umax Computer Corp because the cloners would have produced faster machines than Apple’s own. What Exponential did retain from its four years of chip development was a series of key patents, which it auctioned off to a single, unnamed company last month. Intel Corp is said to made an unsuccessful bid.
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