New firms tempt IBM, Apple workers

DECISIONS, DECISIONS 2

November 04, 1991|By Daniel De Vise | Daniel De Vise,Knight-Ridder News Service

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Computer giants IBM and Apple have spared no grandeur in forecasting the impact their alliance will have on the personal computer industry. "The second decade of personal computing begins today," IBM Chairman John Akers said after the announcement on Oct. 2.

For many IBM employees, though, the pact means making a decade's worth of decisions in a few months.

For example, people who spent years honing their skills at the company's personal computer lab in Boca Raton are being asked to drop their IBM badge to join one of the two independent companies IBM and Apple will start near San Francisco.

The dilemma boils down to this: Employees at two of the computer industry's most stable companies are being asked to join upstart companies whose profits, products and future are anything but secure. Such a choice is easy for a plucky young programmer, but tough for a seasoned veteran with a spouse, kids and pension.

But the offer is tempting, because both companies will work on the cutting edge of personal computer technology.

Taligent, a planned software company that will hire 350 employees from IBM and Apple, will develop a new way of writing computer programs that may pervade the entire PC field by the year 2000. Kaleida, a slated multimedia venture that will employ 200 at the outset, will develop a way to exchange sound, video and information across computer lines.

Both firms' projects will replace IBM's and Apple's most top-secret ones.

Both companies are calling on their top PC talent to do the work which covers five technologies:

* Object-oriented software. Taligent will develop prefabricated "chunks" of programming language. Programmers now build software from scratch, typing out repetitive codes to make the computer perform different operations. This cumbersome process forces IBM programmers to spend about 70 percent of their time fine-tuning software. Object-oriented, "prefab" programming could cut this figure to 30 percent.

* Multimedia products. Kaleida will explore the exchange of sound, video and text across computer and consumer electronic devices. That could trigger innovations such as splicing a video clip into a computer presentation program or editing music on a Macintosh.

* Reduced-instruction microprocessors. IBM and Apple will convert a stripped-down, powerful microprocessor developed for large computers into a version for PCs.

* Open systems. The computer companies will build a system to enable large computers to run Macintosh PC programs. Apple developed this technology and will share it with IBM.

* Networking. IBM and Apple will link Macintosh PC users to IBM mainframe and midrange computers. IBM already has software giving its PC users access to bigger computers, but Macintosh users lack this power.

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