What better time to look back at the fun-filled events of 1990 than now. You were having fun, weren’t you? Actually, a few people suggested an article like this in their survey responses, and hey, we respond to feedback (well at least most of the time :-)). I will admit that I’m going to cheat and look back in my TidBITS Archive to better remember 1990’s hot news, so if you missed something mentioned here, check your archive or look for back issues at your favorite free software repository. Oh, for those few of you who didn’t know what the archive is and mentioned so on the survey, try reading the instructions on the first screen and then experiment with the Merge button.
I don’t think I can possibly rank these events in order of interest, but high on the list is the introduction of Windows 3.0 for PC-clones. Microsoft dumped something like $10 million into marketing Windows 3.0 and, surprise, they sold a lot of copies, around two million. I’d like to see how some other programs could sell with a $10 million ad campaign. After using Windows for a bit, my feeling is that it’s just fine if you use high-end PC-clones anyway, but no matter what people say, Windows does not give you a Mac, except perhaps in sheep’s clothing, to stretch the allusion. The best part about Windows is that it helps to legitimize graphical interfaces (I hate the acronym GUI – it reminds me of chewing taffy and having my mouth cemented shut) even further.
Despite the fall of the junk-bond king, Mike Milken, the computer industry has been prey to the vagaries of Wall Street and the stock market. First Lotus and Novell announced a planned merger, which would have made them larger than Microsoft. That deal quickly fell through, for reasons including unhappy Novell shareholders and Novell’s chairman wanting lots of power. Lotus bounced back from that defeat by buying Samna, whose Ami and Ami Professional number among the best of the Windows word processors. And then, just recently, AT&T tried to buy NCR for some vast amount of money, but NCR said that vast wasn’t enough and it wanted more. I believe the specifics were that NCR stock was trading in around $55 per share and AT&T offered $90. NCR refused $90 and asked for $125, at which point AT&T said $100 and that’s it. NCR refused again, and AT&T, last we heard, was trying to effect a hostile takeover. We actually saw the transcript of the process including the full text of the letters between Robert Allen and Charles Exley, better known in the letters as Bob and Chuck. I didn’t think you could call someone Bob or Chuck when you were talking about multi-million dollar deals – it doesn’t sound serious enough.
As far as new machines went last year, IBM pushed its PS/1 – finally, an IBM computer that isn’t divided by 2, but last we heard, the Macintosh Classic was the real story in the cheap computer market. Apple was so surprised by the popularity of the Classic that it started sending Classics to the US (from the plant in Singapore) by air instead of ship because it couldn’t come close to meeting demand. Even still, we’ve heard of 3-month waiting lists. The Mac LC and IIsi were also released and have proved popular as well, though there is some feeling that Apple scrimped to lower the prices on these two computers, particularly on the power supplies. NeXT finally released new versions of its workstation, the NeXTstation and the NeXTcube, along with some hot color hardware called NeXTdimension. NeXT is shipping now that Motorola has the 68040 in mass production, which hadn’t happened at the time of the NeXT introduction.
The year of the clones may not have come yet, but it will soon. A number of Macintosh clones were announced last year, including software that runs on Unix workstations, a SPARC laptop computer that can emulate a Mac and PC, a IIci clone from Cork Computer Corp. that should be interesting, and right at the last minute, a board for PC-clones called Hydra that runs Mac software. Don’t forget the Outbound laptop, which requires Apple’s ROMs, either. Apple bought the Outbound technology and then licensed it back to Outbound, which clarified the legal situation, supposedly. Other than the Outbound, none of these have hit the mass market, but it will be interesting to see what happens when they do. We’ve been muttering for a long time about how Apple should license the 128K ROMs from the Mac Plus and let clone makers saturate the low-end of the market, which would whet buyers’ appetites for the snazzier machines that Apple puts out. One way or another, it looks like Apple should recognize that companies have more or less cloned the Mac and it would be in Apple’s interests to have license fees coming in from all those sales.
Hydra Systems — 408/996-3880
MacWEEK — 18-Dec-90, Vol. 4, #42, pg 1