Mac Platform Endures as Apple Splits Hardware Division

Apple insiders say the company's new iPod division won't sidetrack Macintosh hardware efforts, despite the move of longtime hardware leader Jon Rubinstein.

What does Apples reorganization into Macintosh and iPod business units say about the company?

It proves "Apple can chew gum and walk at the same time," one former high-level engineering exec said about this weeks reorganization, which opened a new division for its iPod media player. But whether the Macintosh-based hardware platform is the gum or the feet was left to the imagination.

The Cupertino, Calif. company late Wednesday offered a terse statement to the media: "This organizational refinement will focus our talent and resources even more precisely on our industry-leading Macintosh computers and the wildly successful iPod."

But a company representative confirmed a report in The New York Times that Senior Vice President Jon Rubinstein will take the helm of the newly formed iPod division, and Tim Cook, executive vice president of Apple Computer Inc.s worldwide sales and operations, will run the new Macintosh division.

The move marks a significant change for the company, for its leadership and, some suggest, for iPod development.

Rubinstein is one of the pair of former NeXT Software Inc. executives that Apple Chairman Steve Jobs brought to Apple in 1997 to lead its R&D division.

Avie Tevanian, now Apples chief software technology officer, handled software R&D, while Rubinstein moved into the hardware spot. In a reorganization about a year later, Rubinstein was placed in charge of all of the companys hardware products—and until now, there he has remained.

Before Jobs return to the company, then-CEO Gilbert Amelio decentralized Apple into eight, mostly autonomous divisions. At the time, Apple offered a wide range of products, including computers, the Newton handheld device, set-top boxes, printers, cameras, storage and software.

Each unit maintained its own profit and loss statements, some with different brands, such as the Claris division, which was selling software as well as the Mac OS.

Under Jobs leadership, the company jettisoned its profitable peripherals businesses to focus on delivering Macintosh desktops and notebooks for professional and consumer markets, as well as on creating Mac OS X. At the same time, the product development hierarchy was divided into hardware and software groups.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about Apples plan to ease its pace for Mac OS X upgrades.

Over the past year, Apples product line has expanded from the Macintosh to a new, multiplatform consumer line. The iPod media player has captured the imagination of the industry. For its last fiscal quarter, Apple reported that iPod sales grew by 10 percent, and the consumer platform generated $264 million.

/zimages/3/28571.gifThree Apple observers hold differing opinions on whether the company should stay in the computer business. Click here to read their views.

Yet Apple was not the originator of the iPods internal hardware design, according to reports. The device was based on a reference platform created by PortalPlayer Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif.

With technologist Rubinstein helming the division, the company appears to be taking charge of its new platform.

At the same time, some Macintosh software developers worried in online postings that the new division and Rubinsteins move could lessen the place of the Macintosh in Apples plans.

According to the former engineering executive, Rubinsteins desktop, notebook and server teams are "fully capable" of picking up the development.

/zimages/3/28571.gifFor insights on Macintosh coverage around the Web, check out Executive Editor Matthew Rothenbergs Weblog.

Apple confirmed the report that Tim Bucher, senior vice president of Macintosh system development, will lead the Mac hardware engineering team. Bucher was a NeXT hardware engineering manager who worked on Microsofts Ultimate TV product.

He also was the founder of startup Ispiri Inc., developer of the Mirra network attached storage line for consumers.

"Successful computer companies often have more than one product line," the engineer observed.

In addition, one Apple insider told that the shift may give some computer initiatives more play within the hardware division. "Its been crowded at the table, and everythings been coming up iPod, iPod, iPod," he said, requesting anonymity.

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