These days, it's almost impossible to bring out a brand-new PC that's not compatible with some existing model. That's because there are many thousands of programs for popular models, such as IBM's PC and Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh. Last year, though, Apple and IBM formed a joint venture to design an entirely new PC, called the PowerPC. How will they make sure enough software is ready for it?
Simple, says Apple. It's teaming up with Echo Logic Inc., a Holmdel (N.J.) startup that's commercializing ideas developed at nearby AT&T Bell Laboratories. The 20-person company has a program, FlashPort, that can automatically translate any Macintosh program to run on the forthcoming PowerPC design, which will be based on IBM's Power microprocessor. Software engineers have always been able to translate programs from one machine to another, but it can take months. FlashPort, says Echo Logic President Bradford Brunham, can do the job in hours and, in most cases, with little human intervention. Pricing hasn't yet been determined, but FlashPort will be ready for testing later this year. Future versions, Bradford says, will move programs between any two types of computers, not just from the Mac to the PowerPC.