Six frustrating days of fruitless negotiations following Apple Computer Inc’s withdrawal from the clone business on September 2, finally convinced Motorola Inc to throw in the towel on its StarMax Macintosh compatible business last Thursday (CI No 3,245). At first, according to our sister publication ClieNT Server News, Motorola had been confident that after buying back Power Computing’s clone license, Apple would return to its senses and realize that without an open platform its future was bleak. But Apple’s CEO-without-portfolio Steve Jobs was adamant in wanting to destroy the last vestiges of clones, and completely unrelenting on the two main points of interest to Motorola: rights to peddle its CHRP Common Hardware Reference Platform design, and use of the new Power PC 750 chip. Use of Mac OS 8, which was also forbidden to cloners, was a secondary consideration, a Motorola executive said. Motorola already had its systems built, which are more powerful than anything Apple has, and was ready to announce and ship on September 15. Apple’s own equivalent model, code named Gossamer, has been delayed until at least October, four or five months late. Motorola was even willing to pay higher royalties. The straw that broke the camel’s back on Wednesday night was Jobs’ refusal to buy back Motorola’s license, as he had with Power Computing. He would give them a public story, he reportedly said, of buying back the license, but Motorola would have to double up on chip discounts. That tore it. Motorola is, of course, along with IBM the only source of the PowerPC chips on which Apple currently depends. Although Motorola says supplies will continue – against a backdrop of rumors that they’re ready to pull the plug on that too – IBM and Motorola have already agreed that they will redirect investment that would have gone into Apple PowerPCs and instead put it in the embedded market. That will have no immediate effect on Apple, but in a year from now it will. The fate of a so-called Desktop-98 chip, a prospective Apple-only part, is unclear, for instance. Coupled with Job’s earlier decision not to spin out the Newton unit, it seems his course lends credence to Apple as a Network Computer house, and its likely move into the Wintel orbit.
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