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Microsoft, Apple, and Pink: A History Lesson

Rumors that Microsoft is developing a multimedia smart phone heated up again today when The Wall Street Journal reported (subscription required for full article) that Microsoft was talking to Verizon Wireless about launching the new phone in 2010. But for those of us with long tech memories, the project?? alleged code name, Pink, brought back some queasy memories.

Pink was also the codename of an ill-fated mid-1990s joint venture between Apple and IBM??ust the thought of that sounds weird today??o develop a new object-oriented operating system. Back then, there was an even stranger collaborative effort among Apple, IBM, and Motorola to develop something called the common hardware reference platform based on the PowerPC chip, which was made by IBM and Moto and which ran Macs back then. The idea was to develop a single hardware design that would run Mac?? System 7, IBM?? AIX Unix, and Windows NT (IBM and Motorola actually brought products to market; Apple gave up early.)

But Apple and IBM were both interested in a new OS to run on the PowerPC platform. Pink began as an Apple project but in 1992 became a joint IBM-Apple effort. Eventually, the cooperation was formalized in a joint venture called Taligent. Apple was simultaneously developing an OS called Copland as a successor to the old Mac OS and gradually lost interest in Taligent. Eventually, IBM acquired Apple's stake in the joint venture and it faded away in the maw of Big Blue.

In the end, Copland never made it to the finishing line either. When Apple acquired Steve Jobs's NeXT Computer in 1997, NeXT software chief Avie Tevanian moved to Apple and, using the NeXTSTEP operating system as the basis, shepherded the creation of Mac OS X. The rest is history.

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