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Apple Computer, paving the way for the first clones of the Macintosh computer, today introduces a logo identifying products using Macintosh operating system software.

But Apple faces an uphill battle.

The new "Mac OS" logo will appear on Macintosh packaging this fall, and later in Apple advertising and on software packages, peripheral products like printers and Macintosh computer clones.

Apple will offer the logo free to marketers of Macintosh-compatible products.

Apple hopes the logo will make it easier to identify Mac-compatible software programs against a sea of others featuring the ubiquitous logo of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system.

What is more important is that Apple wants to create a distinction between the Macintosh computer and the operating system that runs a Macintosh. While BBDO Worldwide, Los Angeles, is Apple's agency, no advertising is planned immediately.

Apple previously made little effort to talk about its proprietary software, instead presenting Macintosh as a seamless combination of hardware and software.

Gaynelle Grover, creative director in Apple's Corporate Identity and Design Group, said Mac software needs its own identity as Apple entices other PC marketers to license the operating system.

The company reportedly is working on licensing deals with several second-tier PC marketers, including Taiwan's Acer. Clones get to use the "Mac OS" logo but not the name "Macintosh."

Apple also today will give some details about its licensing plans. Signalling a slower approach than some observers had hoped, Apple is limiting initial clone licens-ees, like PC marketers in regions where Apple has a small presence.

As part of Apple's announcement, however, IBM Corp. will disclose it and Apple are working on a computer standard that would allow the Mac operating system to run on IBM computers using the new PowerPC computer chip. That raises the possibility IBM will license the software.

But Apple will have a tough sell. Many analysts say Apple missed an opportunity to license the Mac software before the arrival four years ago of Windows 3.0, the Microsoft software that gave regular PCs much of the look and feel of Macintosh.

Apple is the No. 2 PC marketer in the U.S., with a 10.8% unit market share in the first half of '94, reported Dataquest, a San Jose, Calif., market researcher.

Next year, Microsoft will introduce Windows 95, an operating system some observers will be the first to make regular PCs easier to use than Macintosh. And Microsoft promises the biggest marketing blitz in the company's history.

Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., works on Microsoft branding efforts and Anderson & Lembke, San Francisco, is Microsoft's U.S. product agency.

Microsoft had to push its software introduction into next year, creating a window of opportunity for other operating system sellers. But Apple's Mac attack could be overshadowed by aggressive marketing of another Windows alternative: IBM next month is expected to start a major advertising initiative through Ogilvy & Mather, Los Angeles, to sell a new version of its long-struggling OS/2 operating system.

The logo features a profile of a "interfacing," she said, with a computer represented by a blue box sporting a smile. It draws on a decade-old "happy Mac" icon that appears when users turn on a Macintosh.

Apple picked blue, Ms. Grover said, because the color is "well-liked" and connotes "compatibility with PCs." So Apple now is square and blue-not to be confused with Big Blue, IBM.

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