Apple to 'do more, cost less'

APPLE Computer - long the maverick of the PC industry - last week formalised its transition to the ''mainstream'', pledging to ''do more, cost less, fit in, and stand out''.

Delivering his first keynote address at the giant Comdex trade show in Las Vegas, Apple chairman Michael Spindler outlined significant departures from standard corporate doctrine, particularly in its premium pricing strategies and open architecture support.

Significantly, Mr Spindler said the next generation of the company's flagship Macintosh line - which is based on the new PowerPC processor from Motorola - will run software developed for the Microsoft Windows environment.

Mr Spindler promised ''very aggressive pricing'' for the PowerPC Macintosh systems when they are launched in the first half next year, with the view to establishing the PowerPC's RISC (reduced instruction set computing) architecture the ''mainstay of thedesktop''.

''We won't price technology at a premium ever again,'' Mr Spindler said. ''We will use technology to drive volume, and be the price-performance leaders.'' ''This is what I promise: It does more, it costs less, it fits in, it stands out. It's as simple as that.'' Apple announced that its System 7 operating system had reached the beta stage - meaning it had emerged from the development labs and was undergoing final testing.

By making the new Macintosh platform IBM-compatible via the PowerPC processor, Apple has fired what amounts to the first significant volley in what may become a colossal battle between Motorola's PowerPC platform (which was co-developed by Apple and IBM), and the new Pentium chip from Intel, the world's biggest semiconductor firm.

By offering a platform capable of running Windows applications, Apple is giving users of Intel-based systems an alternative desktop machine that protects the users' existing investment in software.

Mr Spindler said he aimed to make Apple ''the customer advocacy company in the industry'', meaning it would offer comprehensive solutions across multiple platforms and multiple operating systems.

Speaking before about 7,500 keynote delegates at the Aladdin resort hotel on the Las Vegas strip, Mr Spindler finally laid to rest the legacy of former chairman and chief executive John Sculley, who left the company five months ago, having dominated Apple corporate culture for more than a decade.

If anyone had wondered who was in charge at Apple these days, the depth and clarity of Mr Spindler's Comdex address left no doubt as to who is shouldering responsibility for what are sweeping changes in style and direction.

Mr Spindler, who earned the nickname ''Diesel'' for the perpetual forward momentum which he appears to bring to projects, poured cold water on some of the more futuristic ''obsessions'' of the computer industry (an obsession Apple had routinely been accused of holding under Mr Sculley).

Pulling back from a culture accused of being perhaps a little too forward thinking, Mr Spindler said Apple's vision of the future included a ''vision of useful products today''.

He quoted the much talked about so-called ''information superhighway'', the convergence of the computing, telecommunications, publishing and entertainment industries as a current obsession in the US, cautioning that in a world where all things were technically possible, it was easy to lose sight of what was actually useful.

''You can talk just so much about long-term industry and technology trends,'' Mr Spindler said. ''Sooner or later, you have to focus on near-term customer needs.'' A good deal of the keynote was devoted to discussion of information delivery and management, and the development of the computer as essentially a communications device, rather than being computational.