Thursday, September 25, 2003

Microsoft leaves Apple out in the cold. Apple Computer has been counted out time after time over the years, and it's still here, if not exactly kicking ass. Still, a review of the new Microsoft Office for Windows in today's New York Times raises some serious questions about Apple's future.

According to David Pogue, Office 2003 incorporates some features that corporate managers will love. These features -- known collectively as "information-rights management" -- allow users to decide who will be able to open which documents, what changes they can make, and the like.

But in a parenthetical near the end, Pogue notes, "IRM breaks some of the convenient Windows-Macintosh file compatibility that's existed for years -- and it requires Internet Explorer as your browser."

Well, now. Apple's comeback, starting with Steve Jobs's return in the late 1990s, rests on three pillars: producing the coolest machines; unveiling a shimmering operating system, OS X, that makes it easier to play with photos, music, and video; and assuring users that they'll be able to survive in a Microsoft world. Microsoft even invested money in Apple.

But that's starting to come apart. Earlier this year, Microsoft responded to Apple's decision to release its own Web browser, Safari, by halting development of future versions of Internet Explorer for the Mac. Apple also released presentation software known as Keynote to compete with Microsoft's PowerPoint. And now we're starting to see divergence in the rest of Office, the most crucial product of all.

I own a few shares of Microsoft, but I use a Mac. This is bad news. Apple's enjoyed some very good years thanks to its strategic alliance with Microsoft. Can't Bill Gates and Steve Jobs sit down and talk this over?

New in this week's Phoenix. I take a look at the future of online file-sharing, part of a special Phoenix package on "Downloading Now: Music in the Post-Napster Age."

WBZ Radio talk-show host David Brudnoy talks about his battle with cancer.

And employees at the Boston Herald and its sister Community Newspaper chain brace themselves against rumors of deep budget cuts.

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