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Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Apple looks to the future
People gather together at MacWorld
Computer experts demonstrate the Voodoo5 boards
By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson from MacWorld

Two years ago, even the famously faithful Apple community had doubts.

The company was haemorrhaging money, and rumours were rife that the company would be bought out, some said by Sun, others IBM, or it would be relegated to computer history like Atari and Commodore.

Developers were grumbling, and Mac users were beginning to have difficulty finding peripherals, software and accessories.

But as evidence of Apple's recovery, hardware and software companies are returning and recommitting themselves to the Mac.

Strong support

One measure of the strength of a computing platform is the size of its developer community and the diversity of accessories and peripherals available for the computer.

Palm advert
Palm shows that diversity is key
Handheld computer maker Palm boasts of its 70,000 developers to demonstrate the strength of its market position.

At Apple, Steve Jobs has worked hard over the past few years to retain software developers.

In 1998, Mr Jobs had to personally lobby financial software maker Intuit to continue to write its popular Quicken financial software for the Mac.

New graphics choice

Now, he can point to the number of hardware companies bringing products to the Mac for the first time or expanding their product line.

Although Macs have traditionally been a system preferred by graphic artists, illustrators and the creative community, they have had to rely primarily on ATI for graphics boards.

But seeing a market with little competition, graphics chip maker 3dfx will bring their Voodoo4 and Voodoo5 boards to the Mac.

They began dabbling with the Mac market a year ago by releasing beta drivers for the Voodoo3 line of graphics cards.

"The people who constitute the Mac team at 3dfx are hardcore Mac advocates," said Stephane Huaulme with 3dfx.

Old macs
The traditional Mac is becoming obsolete
He includes himself in that category. "I have worked for 15 years on Macs. That's all I've ever done."

But the decision was based on more than the dedication of a few Mac users at 3dfx.

"It takes an enormous amount of resources to develop a product, and you have to have a market to sell to," he said.

But with the resurgence of the Mac, especially in gaming, his company saw an enormous opportunity.

Extended product lines

Printer makers have always sold high-end and business printers to Apple users because of the strong position the company in the design community.

Hewlett-Packard has a history of working with Apple. They made Apple branded printers for the computer company for many years.

But after Apple chose Canon for a time to produce its printers, HP found it difficult to compete with their former partner.

Mac fan
A Mac faithful
But when Steve Jobs approached HP two and half years ago to bring USB printers to the Mac, HP recommitted itself to the platform, said Hugh Amick, of HP's MacConnect team.

HP also recently extended its line of Macintosh printers and introduced all-in-one systems that scan, print and fax.

Printer maker Lexmark has also introduced new consumer inkjet printers for the Mac.

William McKinney with Lexmark said that two years ago, people did not know if Apple would make it through the end of the year.

Apple is viewed as a niche market, "but a significant niche market," he said.

And with Apple's resurgence, it has been easier to justify the investment needed to develop products for the Mac, he added.

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See also:

19 Jul 00 | Business
Apple unveils the 'Cube'
13 Jun 00 | Business
Internet multimedia deal agreed
16 Feb 00 | Business
Apple - back to the future
10 Feb 00 | Microsoft
Apple Computers: A brief history
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