October 2, 1991: As the Cold War draws to a close, hell freezes a second time as Apple and IBM agree to set aside their differences.
Having been bitter rivals for the past ten years, the two tech giants are hosting a press conference at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco to unveil their new partnership. “We want to be a big player in the computer industry,” says John Sculley, Apple’s CEO. “The only way to do that is to work with another great player.”
One of Apple’s first rivalries
The rivalry between Apple and IBM began largely with the launch of IBM’s personal computer in August 1981. Despite IBM’s welcome on the PC side of the site Wall Street Journal, it didn’t take long for Apple to position Big Blue as the number one public enemy.
The biggest reason for this was IBM’s success in the business market, which Apple desperately wanted to break. IBM possessed the kind of name recognition that Cupertino was still employed for.
The most obvious recording Apple made at IBM was his 1984 Macintosh commercial, directed by Ridley Scott, which gave IBM the role of Big Brother.
Another Apple-IBM agreement
In the early 1990s, however, it was clear to Apple that Microsoft posed a greater threat than IBM. Sculley also came to the conclusion that Apple’s biggest source of value is software, not hardware. In April 1991, he gave a demonstration to IBM engineers showing the Apple OS running on an IBM PS / 2 Model 7 computer.
That led to the October Apple-IBM agreement, in which the two rivals agreed to work together. IBM would help Apple complete its “Pink” operating system (the one that Apple engineers created to work on IBM computers). In addition, IBM would give Apple a license to use its PowerPC processor.
The arrival of PowerPC
In the end, the only big news that came out of the deal was the arrival of the Power Mac. (Although in 1993 the two companies received joint emulation software that allowed Mac users to run software that was previously only available for IBM computers.)
The transition from the Motorola 68000 processor to PowerPC was one of only three times when Apple changed its chip supplier. The next time was when Steve Jobs oversaw the transition to Intel chips in 2005 (in 2020, Cupertino left Intel and began producing Macs with his own custom Apple Silicon.)
“Pink” has meanwhile become Taligent (a combination of “talent” and “intelligent”). This object-oriented operating system would take over NeXTSTEP, similar to the OS Jobs built on NeXT.
In the end, it stopped, so Apple withdrew from the 1995 agreement. Apple continued to develop a similar unfortunate Copland operating system. When that too was bombed, Cupertino made the decision to buy NeXTSTEP – which resulted in Jobs returning to the company he helped found.
The end of the Apple-IBM war
Today, Apple’s battle with IBM is a thing of the past. The two often collaborate on business applications. Even Apple’s battle with Microsoft seems a bit retro, overshadowed by today’s biggest technical conflicts between Apple and Google or Apple and Samsung.
Still, the Apple-IBM deal certainly shocked hellish fans in 1991.
Were you a follower of Apple at the time? Leave your comments below.
Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.