SAN FRANCISCO -- Top executives of Apple Computer Inc. were to visit IBM headquarters in Armonk, N.Y., yesterday to discuss a far-ranging technology alliance that could have a major impact on the computer industry, industry executives said.
One part of the talks, according to these executives, was a proposal for IBM to license from Apple, and perhaps even to help develop, basic software for a new line of Apple computers that will be a successor to its Macintosh family.
The companies also were to discuss whether Apple will use a powerful IBM microprocessor that IBM uses in some of its computers.
An alliance between the two biggest manufacturers of personal computers would present a united front against other alliances in the computer industry.
While the discussions might not lead to any agreement, the mere fact the two fierce rivals are talking attests to changes in the industry and would have been unthinkable even a year ago.
At Apple, which is based in Cupertino, Calif., in the Silicon Valley, hatred of International Business Machines Corp. is almost a religion, one executive there said, and the idea of cooperation with IBM still strikes some Apple employees as heresy.
Apple, which was started in a garage, has always positioned itself as the David against the huge, pin-striped and East Coast-based IBM. It provides exciting little machines to individuals, Apple has liked to suggest, while IBM provides stolid machines for corporate data-processing departments.
In a 1984 television commercial, Apple even likened IBM to Big Brother.
But executives say the computer industry is changing in a way that allows for strange bedfellows. Few companies can afford to develop all their technology alone anymore.
And customers are trying to avoid being dependent on a single supplier, which forces companies to team up to offer interchangeable computers that can be linked together in networks to increase computing power.