Building on its commitment to Internet solutions that are media-rich and easy-to- use, Apple Computer Inc. further outlined its Internet and intranet strategies in a keynote address presented by Larry Tesler, vice president of AppleNet, Apple's Internet development group given at the Mactivity trade show today.
Tesler's remarks built on Apple's Internet solutions campaign, announced earlier this year, to specifically address Apple's strategy for intranets. "Apple is now recommending intranets as the network architecture for enterprise networks that include Macintosh computers," said Tesler. "We are committed to adhering to industry-standard networking protocols in our product line and to integrating Macintosh Internet and intranet capabilities into virtually all of our hardware and software products."
Tesler noted that intranets operating in Macintosh networking environments provide multiple customer advantages, including the availability of industry-standard components from a variety of vendors to help lower customer costs and increase flexibility. Apple's intranet solutions also call for improved commnications and productivity within corporations by leveraging rich data types such as page layout, graphics and multimedia. Other benefits include increased corporate participation, particularly in cross-functional applications, and modularity for smooth integration of new technology.
For corporate intranets, Tesler announced that Apple plans to deiver its ease-of-use and rich media benefits in three areas: accessing intranets, delivering information on intranets, and creating content for intranets.
Apple is committed to delivering Macintosh clients that are intranet-ready and can be easily integrated with intranet services and corporate networks. Tesler explained that with an intranet as its network architecture, a corporation gives its users the ability to choose the computer that best serves their application needs, while plugging into an organization's horizontal enterprise applications. The key is that the horizontal enterprise applications are based on the same intranet that is native to any department's specific client platform, giving users the best of all worlds.
An intranet can connect everyone in an organization to all of its electronically stored information, whether in text files, web pages or databases. That information can be browsed, queried, or viewed in a variety of ways. But until now, it was necessary to develop special software for each method of accessing each store of data. Tesler said that Apple is proposing a new Internet standard, the Meta Content Format (MCF), that addresses this problem. MCF opens up a new market for "data-independent viewers." Because MCF is an open standard, software developers can create a wide variety of such viewers. Database and web site administrators can describe their data once in MCF and automatically make that data available for access through any compliant viewer.
Tesler gave a sneak preview of two data-independent viewers that were developed by Apple's Advanced Research Laboratories in an initiative called "ProjectX." One ProjectX viewer offers a 3D information navigation system that allows users to effortlessly "ly- through" any website, database, or desktop folder structure for which an MCF description is available. The other ProjectX viewer allows the same information to be rowsed using a 2D outline similar to that of the Macintosh Finder.
"The industry needs a common format for describing information on the Internet and intranets, so that data become more accessible and easier to work with," Tesler said. "Apple's Advanced Research Laboratories have been studying this universal problem; we believe we have some unique solutions to this challenge, and we'll be unveiling more of our approach in the months ahead."
Tesler also demonstrated a new intranet feature that is expected to ship with the 1.1version of Apple's Cyberdog Internet software suite this fall. This new feature which allows users to browse AppleTalk networks and save items such as Zones and AppleShare files as live "Cyberitems." It is ideal for mixed TCP/IP and AppleTalk networks, and integrates Internet and intranet access into a user's desktop.
In addition, Tesler announced that Corel's WordPerfect product for the Macintosh will offer OpenDoc Container support in its next release, later this year. He also announced an agreement with Farallon to include Farallon's Timbuktu Pro with the next release of Apple's QuickTime Conferencing Kit, as well as including Farallon's Look@Me applet and web browser plug-in with Aple's Internet Connection Kit 1.2.
To improve delivery of information on intranets, Apple provides easy-to-use servers for departments and Information Services (IS) applications. Apple's scalable server products for Internet and intranet solutions are easy to install and maintain, and range from easy-to-use, inexpensive solutions to industrial-strength UNIX-based servers.
At Mactivity, Tesler demonstrated NetFinder, a Mac OS asynchronous common gateway interface (ACGI) for distributing documents via the World Wide Web. NetFinder lets administrators and webmasters of Mac OS erers distribute documents via the web, including software and product documentation, using Apple's familiar folder structures.
Previously, users connected to a server had to use FTP, Gopher or custom-designed web pages to retrieve these documents. Now, with NetFinder installed on a server, users will see an automatically generated HTML page that looks like a Macintosh desktop folder. Users can open folders and download documents by simply clicking on familiar icons. Apple server customers can download NetFinder from the Apple website free of charge.
Apple's final intranet focus is the area for which it is most well- known: providing technologies for ease-of-use in creating content. According to recent surveys, Apple is a leader in multimedia and desktop publishing. A June 1996 survey from Dataquest named Apple the No. 1 vendor of complete multimedia PC desktop systems worldwide for the second year running, with 18.8 percent of the market, and a 1996 survey by Griffin Dix Research Associates found that 80 percent of all computers used for color publishing jobs in the adverising, graphic design, printing, publishing and pre-press industries are Macintosh.
For creating intranet content, Aplewill deliver creation platforms and tools that make it easy for IS to leverage the new rich media enabled by the intranet. With an intranet, corporations can introduce media-rich communications into the corporate network environment to increase the effectiveness of communication for improved productivity and corporate participation.
"We're extending our strength in traditional publishing to website publishing," said Tesler. "We're finding that the Macintosh customers who have used the Macintosh for years -- graphic artists, writers, ad agencies nd creative services -- are now turning to the Macintosh platform to deliver the most creative website designs."
Apple Platform Directions
In order to deliver the easy-to-use and powerful user experience for which Apple is famous for, Tesler reviewed in today's keynote a set of key platform components that provide the foundation for on-going Internet and intranet development. The key components are networking infrastructure, the QuickTime Media Layr QTML), OpenDoc and Java:
Networking Infrastructure: Apple is supporting industry standard TCP/IP protocols as a core component of the Mac OS. The first step of this move has been the introduction of Open Transport, which makes TCP/IP an equal peer to AppleTalk and is now available as part of Apple's latest Mac OS release, System 7.5 Version 7.5.3. Apple also recently announced plans to extend support of TCP/IP protocols to its remote access product line.
QuickTime Media Layer: Today, QuickTime is already established as the defacto standard for multimedia content on the Internet. A recent survey of 2,000 multimedia websites found QuickTime to be the No.1 multimedia fomat More than 20,000 web pages today use Apple QuickTime content and more than 5,000 use QuickTime VR, including industry leaders such as CNN, Tower Records, Warner Brothers, Disney, MTV, BMW and Atlantic Records, according to a search from the Alta Vista Web Index. Apple intends to proactively drive adoption of QuickTime as the industry-standard multimedia format for the Internet. Apple recently announced the invention of QuickTime "fast start" movie play-back, which allows users to begin to view a movie while it's still downloading. Additionally, the VRML 2.0 moving worlds standard, sponsored by Netscape and SGI, has adopted Apple's 3DMF, a 3D file format. Netscape has also recently announced that it will be bundling QuickTime with its upcoming Navigator 3.0 release.
OpenDoc: This industry-standard component architecture allows Apple to merge otherwise disparate software such as Cyberdog, Java applets, and Netscape plug-ins.
Java: Apple and Sun Microsystems recently announced that Apple has licensed Java. Apple plans to embed Java across a range of Apple products and technologies, including Mac OS, OpenDoc, Cyberdog, HyperCard, Newton, Pippin and Apple Web servers.
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