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By John Russell

March 8, 2005 | Apple lost ground to Microsoft and Linux in the rush to computerize lab equipment during the past decade. Many more instruments now come bundled with PCs for control, and more Windows-based interfaces and devices drivers are being written.

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE. Apple has won big with Microscopy venders but struggles in other categories, Elizabeth Kerr says.

"It is something that we are aware of and have a strong interest in turning that around," says Philip Schiller, Apple senior vice president for worldwide product marketing. "We're looking at a relationship with some key players. We have a relationship with Becton Dickinson, and they sell their flow cytometers with Apple computers as the instrumentation control."

It wasn't always this way. Apple had the early lead, says Jay Caprioli of the Whitehead Institute. Even now, "there's a large number of instruments in the lab running on really, really old Macs," he says. "We're pushing 10 years on some and using System 7 and Mac OS 8. One frustrating point for IT is there's no upgrade for these systems other than buying new instruments."

Apple is making selective headway. "We have a really deep buy with the microscope companies," says Elizabeth Kerr, Apple's director of science and technology markets. Caprioli readily agrees: "They have done a very good job in microscopy. Apple has always lent itself to doing imaging analysis and manipulation, and I'm seeing a lot of newer microscopes hooked to Macs and to cinema displays. We have a couple here hooked to a big flat-panel display running on a dual-processor Mac."

Robotics control is Mike Barmada's big headache at the University of Pittsburgh's Apple cluster. "They (robotics suppliers) only have drivers available for PCs. It would be nice if Apple could make headway into that area, but I have a hard time envisioning just how because there are so many vendors. It would be great if Apple could get some of the big ones to at least write cross-platform drivers."

Says Kerr, "We're trying to do more, but [instruments] is a challenging opportunity simply because a lot of that comes from people using white-box clone products."

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