Apple picks Earthlink as service provider for Macs

 

Apple Computer has said it will invest $200 million (€193.7 million)in Earthlink Network, which will be the Internet service provider for Apple's Macintosh computers.

Mr Steve Jobs, who has led a stunning turnaround at Apple, has also made his stewardship of the computer maker a more permanent affair. After 2 1/2 years as "interim" chief executive of Apple, Mr Jobs said he would drop the qualifier from his title.

"I'm going to be dropping the `interim' title," Mr Jobs told the Macworld expo in San Francisco.

Apple also said it would take a seat on Earthlink's board. Earthlink, which has about 32.5 million shares, is set to merge with Mindspring Enterprises, creating the number two Internet service provider after America Online.

The agreement with Earthlink is similar to a service that Gateway - a maker of so-called Wintel personal computers that use Microsoft software and Intel chips - has been offering for some time. The largest PC makers have teamed up with Internet access providers to boost sales through add-on services amid a brutally competitive PC market.

At the trade show, Mr Jobs also unveiled the delayed Mac OS X, a completely new version of its well-received operating system software. It grew out of an earlier version code-named Rhapsody and will boast a new interface called Aqua.

Apple also revamped its Web site, at www.apple.com, to include features called iReview, a website review guide and iCards, an electronic greeting card site.

Separately, Microsoft said it will release its latest Macintosh-based Internet browser by early March and bundle it with the next version of Apple's operating system later this year.

"Our new iReviews, iCards and the revolutionary iTools offer amazing new ways for Mac users to take full advantage of the Internet," Mr Jobs said.

iTools include Kidsafe, a new way to protect children on the Internet, specifying what they can see rather than trying to filter out what they shouldn't see. Apple's computers have more than 50,000 sites it deems safe for children, and is adding 10,000 new sites each month.

Apple also unveiled Mac.com, an e-mail service that the company plans to run, giving users and exclusive address on the Internet and works with standard e-mail programmes. Users can easily set up automatic replies and forwarding of their e-mail to other addresses.

Apple also is offering something it calls iDisk, which is 20 megabytes of storage on Apple's Internet server computers, and Apple said it was as easy to use as a folder on the Mac desktop.

HomePage also introduced what Apple called an easy way to build a personal website in less than 10 minutes, which would then be hosted on Apple's server computers. The iTools services are free to Macintosh users running Mac OS 9.

Earthlink will become the exclusive Internet service provider in Apple's Internet set-up software included with all Apple Macintosh computers sold in the U.S.

Mac enthusiasts and others had speculated wildly about the biannual MacWorld show, at which Mr Jobs typically gives a rousing speech and takes the wraps off closely guarded secrets.