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"America demands big things from us, and nothing big ever came from being small." -- President Clinton, in his inaugural address, calling for an end to partisan bickeringEDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

GOT AN AOL GRIPE? TRY CARRIER PIGEON

AMERICA ONLINE CUSTOMERS have had trouble getting onto the service since it introduced its flat rate in December. This isn't all that is clogged on AOL. Irate users have sent CEO Stephen Case such voluminous E-mail that his primary screen name ("Steve Case") froze for 24 hours recently. In other words, his mailbox was blocked. At the same time, another link to contact him--an icon atop the Steve Case Mailbag, located on his official AOL site--was deactivated for four days. The icon was later replaced by a hyperlink buried at the bottom of the Mailbag.

Case, who normally receives up to 3,000 electronic missives daily, lately gets almost twice that. Flamers should know that Case does not handle replies personally any longer; a 50-person staff does that. All this cyber-kvetching to the boss has led AOL to install new software to manage Case's mail better.

Case received his first E-mail surge in August after AOL crashed systemwide. The new flat rate expanded its subscriber base by a record 1.2 million, or 17%, but the resulting tie-ups on AOL's lines have prompted a class action and an investigation by a group of state attorneys general.By Lisa Sanders EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

APPLE IS LOOKING MIGHTY LONELY

SOME OF APPLE'S CLOSEST partners are looking to strike out on their own. Four Macintosh clonemakers--Power Computing, Motorola, UMAX, and DayStar Digital--recently met with IBM and Exponential Technology, which make the PowerPC chips for Macs, to discuss ways to beef up their products using technologies from Apple rivals. (Motorola also is a PowerPC provider.) Says CEO Steve Kahng of Power Computing, the No.1 clonemaker: "We don't want to depend entirely on Apple anymore."

The cloners, whose low-cost units have led to fast growth at Apple's expense, worry that financially beleaguered Apple can no longer be trusted to furnish them with new features customers want. How would they assert independence? Power Computing has already licensed Be Inc.'s Be operating system. The other cloners hint they may follow. (Apple recently bought NeXT Software, spurning a Be acquisition.) The chipmakers, for their part, say they're looking at licensing Intel's popular MMX multimedia technology, among others, which would go into the cloners' PowerPC-based machines.

Such moves could hurt Apple: Licensees may then be even more competitive with the Mac. Apple says it's unaware of the partners' plans but welcomes any of their innovations.By Peter Burrows EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

BAUSCH & LOMB MAY SEE AN OUT

THE SECURITIES & EXCHANGE Commission's two-year-old probe into alleged accounting shenanigans at Bausch & Lomb is nearing an out-of-court settlement, say sources close to the inquiry. An announcement should come within two months or so.

Although neither B&L nor the SEC would comment, attorneys familiar with similar SEC probes say the likeliest outcome is a cease-and-desist order. B&L would neither admit nor deny wrongdoing, but would agree to refrain from future violations. And the SEC would release the probe's unflattering findings. B&L allegedly inflated 1993 earnings by improperly booking some contact lens and sunglasses sales. Early last year, B&L conceded the charges had substance by voluntarily restating 1993 and 1994 earnings. That move may have saved B&L from even harsher sanctions.By Mark Maremont EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top


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