The AIM alliance was formed on October 2, 1991 between Apple, IBM, and Motorola to create a new, grandly unified, computing standard based on the POWER instruction set architecture.:69 It was further intended to cope with Microsoft's monopoly and Microsoft's and Intel's duopoly. The alliance yielded the launch of Taligent, Kaleida Labs, the highly successful PowerPC CPU family, the Common Hardware Reference Platform (CHRP) hardware platform standard, and Apple's highly successful Power Macintosh computer line.
|POWER, PowerPC, and Power ISA architectures|
|Freescale (formerly Motorola)|
|Cancelled in gray, historic in italic|
|“||Microsoft's worst nightmare is a conjoined Apple and IBM. No other single change in the dynamics of the IT industry could possibly do as much to emasculate Windows.||”|
From the 1980s into the 1990s, the computer industry was moving from a model of just individual personal computers toward an interconnected world, where no one company could afford to be vertically isolated anymore. Infinite Loop says "most people at Apple knew the company would have to enter into ventures with some of its erstwhile enemies, license its technology, or get bought".:428-429 Furthermore, Microsoft's monopoly and the Wintel duopoly threatened competition industrywide, and the Advanced Computing Environment (ACE) consortium was underway.
Phil Hester, a designer of the IBM RS/6000, convinced IBM's president Jack Kuehler of the necessity of a business alliance. Kuehler called Apple President Michael Spindler, who bought into the approach for a design that could challenge the Wintel-based PC. Apple CEO John Sculley was even more enthusiastic.
On July 3, 1991, Apple and IBM signed a noncontractual letter of intent outlining the long-term strategic technology goals of a proposed alliance. It stated the goal of creating a single unifying open-standard computing platform for the whole industry, made of a new hardware design and a next-generation operating system. IBM intended to bring the Macintosh operating system into the enterprise and Apple intended to become a prime customer for the new POWER hardware platform. Considering it to be critically poorly communicated and confusing to the outside world at this point, industry commentators nonetheless saw this partnership as an overall competitive force against Microsoft's monopoly and Intel's and Microsoft's duopoly. IBM and Motorola would have 300 engineers to codevelop chips at a joint manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas. Motorola would sell the chips to Apple or anyone else.
Executives said the negotiations were stop and go, sometimes seeming to founder and then speeding up as impasses were resolved. The main disagreements occurred when one company or the other thought it was giving away too much technology. Executives said that the technological contributions of both sides were evaluated and that money was used to balance the terms, in what negotiators referred to as the "cosmic arithmetic." But how much money is being paid, and which company is paying, is closely guarded information.
Between the three companies, more than 400 people had been involved to define a more unified corporate culture with less top-down executive decree. They collaborated as peers and future coworkers in creating the alliance and the basis of its ongoing future dialog which promised to "change the landscape of computing in the 90s".
In 1992, the earth shook: IBM and Apple clasped hands and pronounced themselves allies. From this union sprang Taligent ... developing nothing less than a universal operating system.
On October 2, 1991, the historic AIM alliance was officially formed with a contract between Apple CEO John Sculley, IBM Research and Development Chief Jack Kuehler, and IBM Vice President James Cannavino.:69 Kuehler said "Together we announce the second decade of personal computing, and it begins today" and Sculley said this would "launch a renaissance in technological innovation", as they signed the foot-high stack of papers comprising the contract. The New York Times called it "an act that a year ago almost no one in the computer world would have imagined possible". It was so sweeping that it underwent antitrust review by the United States federal government.
In 1992, Apple and IBM created two new companies called Taligent and Kaleida Labs as had been declared in the alliance contract, with the expectation that neither would launch any products until the mid-90s. Since 1988, Apple had already created a next-generation operating system, codenamed "Pink"; and Taligent Inc. was incorporated to bring Pink to market as the ultimate crossplatform object-oriented OS and application frameworks. Kaleida was to create an object-oriented, cross-platform multimedia scripting language which would enable developers to create entirely new kinds of applications that would harness the power of the platform. IBM provided affinity between Workplace OS and Taligent, replacing Taligent's microkernel with the IBM Microkernel and adopting Taligent's CommonPoint application framework for Workplace OS, OS/2, and AIX.
It's natural that many people saw Apple's alliance with former adversary IBM Corp. as an ominous portent for the independent future of the Macintosh. The sight of Apple and IBM chief executives gripping and grinning on national television wasn't nearly as confusing as their vow to bring the Mac and IBM desktop computers into the 21st century with shared technology such as PowerPC chips, PowerOpen Unix, and new operating software from Taligent Inc. and Kaleida Labs Inc. Present and future shock aside, that's a lot to digest.
It was thought that the CISC microprocessor processor design, including the mainstream Intel products, were an evolutionary dead end, and that since RISC was the future, the next few years were a period of great opportunity.
The CPUs are the PowerPC processors, the first of which, the PowerPC 601, is a single-chip version of IBM's POWER1 CPU. Both IBM and Motorola would manufacture PowerPC integrated circuits for this new platform. The computer architecture base was called "PReP" (PowerPC Reference Platform), and later complemented with OpenFirmware and renamed "CHRP" (Common Hardware Reference Platform). IBM used PReP and CHRP for PCI version of IBM's RS/6000 platform, from existing Micro Channel architecture models, and changed only to support the new 60x bus style of the PowerPC.
The development of the PowerPC is centered at an Austin, Texas, facility called the Somerset Design Center. The building is named after the site in Arthurian legend where warring forces put aside their swords, and members of the three teams that staff the building say the spirit that inspired the name has been a key factor in the project's success thus far.
Part of the culture here is not to have an IBM or Motorola or Apple culture, but to have our own.
In 1994, Apple delivered its first alliance-based hardware platform, the PowerPC-based Power Macintosh line, on schedule as predicted by the original alliance contract. Infinite Loop considered the PowerPC to be five years too late, "no more than a welcome offering to Apple's own market base", and further hamstrung by the architectural limitations of Mac OS 7.:434-435
In 1995, IT journalist Don Tennant asked Bill Gates to reflect upon "what trend or development over the past 20 years had really caught him by surprise". Gates responded with what Tennant described as biting, deadpan sarcasm: "Kaleida and Taligent had less impact than we expected." Tennant believed the explanation to be that "Microsoft's worst nightmare is a conjoined Apple and IBM. No other single change in the dynamics of the IT industry could possibly do as much to emasculate Windows."
Efforts on the part of Motorola and IBM to popularize PReP and CHRP failed when Apple, IBM, and Taligent all failed to provide a single comprehensive reference operating system for server and personal markets—mainly Taligent's OS or IBM's Workplace OS. Windows NT is the only OS running on PowerPC with any mainstream recognition, but with virtually no market demand. Although the platform was eventually supported by several Unix variants as well as Windows NT and Workplace OS (in the form of OS/2), these operating systems generally ran just as well on Intel-based hardware so there was little reason to use the PReP systems. The BeBox, designed to run BeOS, uses some PReP hardware but as a whole is not compatible with the standard. Kaleida Labs closed in 1995. Taligent was absorbed into IBM in 1998. Some CHRP machines shipped in 1997 and 1998 without widespread reception
Relations between Apple and Motorola further deteriorated in 1998 with the return of Steve Jobs to Apple and his contentious termination of Power Macintosh clone licensing. Reportedly, a heated telephone conversation between Jobs and Motorola CEO Christopher Galvin resulted in the long-favored Apple being demoted to "just another customer" mainly for PowerPC CPUs.
The PowerPC is the clearest intended success that came out of the AIM alliance.:48 From 1994 to 2006, Apple used PowerPC chips in almost every Macintosh. The company transitioned entirely to Intel CPUs, due to eventual disappointment with the direction and performance of PowerPC development as of the G5 model, especially in the fast-growing laptop market. PowerPC also has had success in the embedded market, and several major video game consoles feature chipsets derived from the PowerPC architecture at their core: Gamecube, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.
Taligent was launched from the original AIM alliance, based originally on Apple's Pink operating system. From Taligent came the CommonPoint application framework and many global contributions to internationalization and compilers, in the form of Java Development Kit 1.1, VisualAge C++, and the International Components for Unicode open source project.
Power.org was founded in 2004 by IBM and fifteen partners with intent to develop, enable, promote, and drive adoption of Power Architecture technology, such as PowerPC and POWER and applications based on them. Freescale joined in 2006 and today the consortium consists of over forty companies and institutions.
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