Breaking News: Microsoft buys Apple


In a move is shocking the tech world – actually, and the rest of the world, too – Microsoft has just announced the acquisition of Apple Inc.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently panned Apple as little more than a $500 logo – perhaps he was trying to get the value down before the purchase? In a recent interview with Business Week Ballmer was defensive on any issue that involved Apple.

He said “…now I think the tide has really turned back the other direction. The economy is helpful. Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment – same piece of hardware – paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that’s a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be.”

He also may have plans produce cheaper but slick netbooks using the stripped-down OS X version (iPhone OS 3) that runs on the iPhone and iPod touch. But the most immediate result of the acquisition will be the licensing of Mac OS X for PC from April 31st.

The new ‘Leopard MS Amalgam’ OS will work on any PC (or Mac) running an Intel or AMD processor (1.8GHz or faster) with 2GB of physical RAM and 60-120GB free hard drive space. It will be offered in the following versions: Home Basic X, Home Ultimate X, Family X, SoHo X, Business X and Enterprise X.

Home Basic will retail for NZ $170 and contain OS X, Mail and Safari Explorer (a new Microsoft web browser based on WebKit) and Preview, the image/PDF viewer, plus a couple of utilities.

Home Premium X will retail for $215 and contain Mac OS X, Mail, Safari Explorer and the renamed mTunes, mPhoto, mWeb, mMovie and mDVD.

Home Ultimate X is basically Home Premium bundled with ‘mWork’ – the renamed suite contains versions of Pages, Numbers and Keynote for Mac/PC. (It is assumed that the ‘mWork’ division and the Mac BU will be merged to create all new PC/Mac versions of Office/iWork and other productivity software.)

Family X is a five-user Home Ultimate. It will retail at $590. SoHo X version bundles the current version of Microsoft Office:Mac with the features of Home Premium and will retail for $274.

Business X will contains the mWork and Microsoft Office components along with server and network software and sync software for mobile devices. One license will cost between $360 and $520, according to a Microsoft NZ spokesperson.

Enterprise X will contain a full 64-bit version of the OS, have all the Business X features, developer tools, WebKit and other SDKs and multi language support. (Multi language support has been withdrawn from other versions of ‘mX’, apart from French, German, Japanese and Spanish, but language modules are available via Microsoft’s Upgrade Paths and Easy Transfer programs for additional fees.)

Full details on all the above versions will be released in the next few days, with extra options available to each version and specific system requirements.

Gamers are also happy – thanks to the new CrackPot transcoding software, all PC games will be available to run on the amalgam system withing just a few months. It is widely expected that Windows 7 and Apple Macintosh Snow Leopard will be completely merged in the next two years to create a new operating system platform. An insider in Seattle said this would most likely be called ‘MOS-Y’; software engineers around Seattle are already calling it that, apparently.

The Macintosh will become the Microsoft Macintosh Division – insiders in Seattle are already calling it ‘M&M’ , according to tech blogs. Immediate plans include refurbishing the entire Macintosh line to include brown and black versions of every machine, to be available from June 2009. Mac hardware design will remain headquartered in Cupertino with a Microsoft Hardware Division opening an office in Infinite Loop.

At the announcement to the press, Microsoft CEO Steven A Ballmer concluded ‘But there’s one more thing!’. Bill Gates took the stage and held up a new, reengineered iPhone in brushed anodised brown aluminium. “Introducing the mPhone!” shouted an ebullient Gates, while Ballmer capered about behind him.

It is thought that Windows Mobile may be discontinued with resources reallocated to iPhone development, with the iPhone OS becoming licensed to run on any smart phone.
Conversely, however, the iPod division is being renamed ‘iZune’. New models will be slightly heavier and bulkier as they all have replaceable batteries. All players will contain FM radios, play WMV files and the model range will be greatly expanded – there has been talk of 100 models to cater to all tastes. A rumour said that new iZunes would also get video, but this could not be confirmed.

Microsoft spokesperson Avril Foule said Microsoft had been working hard behind the scenes to acquire Apple for the last nine months and was very pleased at the conclusion of negotiations. Steve Jobs will retain a position on the Microsoft board but will be not be involved in the day-to-day running of the business. He was not available for comment.
Finally, Steve Wozniak has been appointed to consult to the Microsoft Entertainments Division.

There have already been angry Gates and Ballmer effigy burnings outside Apple Stores in California and New York, and a poorly-attended Jobs effigy burning in Arhu, Tennessee. Australian Apple fans lit candles outside the George St Apple Store.

For myself, the shock is still registering – but I expect there will be considerable relief in the Ballmer and Gates’ households. It may have been a costly process, but it means their families will finally be allowed to get iPods

Mark Webster