The NuTek Archive: Articles from Macworld

Because the NuTek clones predate the widespread use of the Internet, and because the Macworld archives are spotty from this era, we’ve scrounged up what Macorld articles we could find online about NuTek – just one so far – and share them here in chronological order.

Opening Pandora’s Box

Macworld, May 1992

The long wait for clones is almost over.
Surprise—Apple is going to help.

By Jerry Borrell

If Apple licenses its operating system to others, the resulting machines won’t technically be clones in the same sense the word is used in the IBM PC market. But I think of them as clones because non-Apple computers (which may or may not be called Macintoshes) will be running the Macintosh Operating System and Mac applications.

The fact that there will be Macintosh clones is news to some, old news for others. Last year I quoted Apple’s Mike Spindler when he stated unequivocally that the company would license its operating system. Macworld reported on a Macintosh clone under development by a company called NuTek in the April 1991 issue. Sony Corporation’s manufacture of Apple’s PowerBook 100 indicates one direction Apple is taking to ensure that there are more Macintoshes in the world.

Until recently, the discussion of clones had faded. Then in early February a company called Quorum announced a software “compatibility engine” that allows Mac applications to run on RISC-based computers from IBM, Sun Microsystems, Next, and Silicon Graphics (see News in this issue). At about the same time, Apple’s behind-the-scenes work on clones began to gain notice. By early spring Apple’s first formal step in broadening access to its operating system, licensing a subset of system code (otherwise known as the Holy Grail) to Radius, had been announced. And word began to slip out that Apple was aggressively courting vendors to build Mac clones.

Part of the impetus for Apple’s drive to have others build clones of the Macintosh began when Apple shifted its business last year toward high-volume manufacturing with the Mac Classic and cut its overall profit margin to 31 percent. As a result of lower profits, the company had to change its way of doing business. Cost cutting, employee layoffs, fewer perquisites, loss of profit-sharing, more cost-conscious manufacturing, and a dramatic shift toward cautious budgeting ensued. Higher sales volume meant a higher share of all personal computer sales. Indeed, about 20 percent of all desktop personal computers sold in the United States last year were Macs. Apple executives were able to say they had addressed the concerns of Macintosh developers, as well as those of analysts and financial brokers, about whether Apple would be able to continue to grow. Given that kind of success, one might ask why Apple needs clones to pursue greater success in the personal computer market.

Why Apple Is Pushing for Growth

How much market share does Apple want? One answer is that Apple wants to have as large a share of the personal computer market as is possible. Apple will soon face well-prepared clone developers for the first time. NuTek intends to announce its first clone machine at a major European computer show this summer. That means there will be Mac clones sold in the market from which Apple will derive no revenue. Apple is going to need its own clones if it’s going to participate in such a market and gain market share. And this is an opportune time to pursue greater market share at the expense of DOS machines. Finally, I believe that John Sculley and Mike Spindler are bringing a flinty-eyed determination to bear on business. I think that Apple’s executives believe they have the opportunity to lead the personal computer industry.

For all the grief and criticism that I and my colleagues in the media heap on Apple executives, they are as capable a group of people as those running any computer company in the world. Whether they are true leaders will be determined over the next six months as Apple pursues its own well-planned and aggressive strategy for developing Macintosh clones. At this stage luck is not involved—Apple’s executives know exactly what they and other companies are doing.

Pandora’s Box

When other companies finally began cloning the IBM PC’s hardware and Microsoft’s
ROM BIOS, IBM lost control of its own market and became a minor player with its own technology. Apple’s planners remember the IBM PC market, and their plans are acutely tuned to making Apple grow.

Of course, the model on the PC side is not strictly analogous to the Mac market. The IBM PC market changed when Phoenix Technologies developed a clone of the IBM PC’s ROM-based operating system that Microsoft had developed for IBM. That development meant that anyone who built an 8086-based PC and used Phoenix’s ROM BIOS would have a computer that could run Microsoft’s DOS and therefore DOS applications. Then several companies, most notably Chips and Technologies, began to build sets of silicon chips that both emulated Intel’s higher-cost microprocessor and integrated supporting chips into the chip set. Manufacturers could buy cheaper hardware and software equivalents to IBM’s and Intel’s offerings—and did, to the tune of 60-million-plus DOS clone computers.

NuTek has approached cloning the Mac by playing the roles of both Phoenix and Chips and Technologies. NuTek has written its own operating system for its Mac clone and has implemented this code in a chip set. NuTek too plans to sell its technology to original equipment manufacturers, other companies that will build and sell computers incorporating NuTek hardware and software that can run Macintosh applications.

Quorum’s approach in the near term is different—to help developers convert their Mac applications to code that will allow the applications to run on other companies’ RISC-based platforms. Quorum can already demonstrate three Macintosh applications—Aldus Persuasion, Claris’s MacWrite, and Cambridge Scientific’s ChemDraw—running on Next, IBM, Sun, and Silicon Graphics workstations. This approach should prove less threatening to Apple—and more encouraging to those who develop software for the Mac—because it opens a new market (of more than 1 million installed workstations) to Mac applications.

Ironically, Apple could be seen as pursuing this same strategy in establishing Taligent with IBM, since one goal of that group will be to produce an operating system that allows Mac applications to run on multiple platforms. But by deciding who will receive access to the Macintosh Operating System, and how, Apple effectively gains control over those companies, as well as the future of the Macintosh.

Apple hopes to forestall the efforts of companies not anointed by its approval. And Apple wants to allow others to build true commodity machines ($500-to-$700
Macs). It has traditionally allowed its developers to prepare the ground for new high-end technologies such as high-performance graphics or the new multiprocessing RocketShare software from Radius that supports up to four 68040 Rocket boards running on the NuBus. In the near term, offering new market opportunities to its long-suffering developers looks like a just reward. By increasing die number of Macs sold, Apple not only offers developers more incentive, but also pursues its goal of growth at the expense of DOS and Windows computers.

Keywords: #macworld #nutek