Steve Jobs, interim chief executive at Apple Computer Corp, discussed the company’s plans for its next generation Rhapsody operating system in San Francisco last week. At the Seybold publishing conference, Jobs outlined a plan to gradually roll out Rhapsody, rather than move ahead with a rapid and complete transition sometime next year. Jobs feels that such an abrupt shift would unsettle an estimated 60 million users as well as developers – a possibly grave financial mistake – and Apple just can’t afford to take that risk right now. It no longer seems a certainty that Rhapsody will eventually replace Mac OS, with Apple now pledging that Mac OS will be pushed forward as its volume operating system for years to come. The deployment of Rhapsody will now be handled more like the manner in which Microsoft rolled out Windows NT. Next year Rhapsody will be launched primarily for servers, allowed to find its initial market there and with high-end desktop applications, and is expected to gradually trickle down to the mainstream desktop over the following several years at a tempo dictated by the customers themselves. In the area of hardware, Apple appears ready to launch both its most powerful high-end system yet, as well as a sub-$1000 model that would function much like a network computer. Jobs also hinted at one of the first possible fruits of re- embracing the Newton unit – a $700 version the e-mate portable aimed at the general consumer market.
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