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A week ago, Apple Computer and IBM Corp. announced a way for their PowerPC chip to take on the juggernaut of Intel Corp.'s chips and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows software. The belated plan aims to develop a computer standard using the PowerPC to run both Apple's Mac OS and IBM's OS/2 software.

So what is Apple introducing today? A Macintosh featuring an Intel chip and Microsoft Windows.

Welcome to Comdex/Fall, the industry's big show in Las Vegas, and a world of technology marketing that's sometimes difficult to compute.

Yet amid the confusion, Apple, IBM and other big-name computer marketers are grappling with a rather pleasant problem: booming demand for current products.

Comdex organizer Interface Group estimates the largest U.S. trade show will draw more than 190,000 attendees, up some 10% from last year.

Numbers tell the story: The world's largest PC, PC software and chip marketers-Compaq Computer Corp., Microsoft and Intel, respectively-are all enjoying record sales and profits.

Ad agencies are participating in the heady times. Microsoft today begins a worldwide $100 million brand-building campaign from its new agency, Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore. IBM is spending more than that via Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, on the fourth-quarter global blitz to introduce its new PC line and OS/2 Warp, a Windows rival.

Soaring ad budgets reflect a market shift. Since the industry began, computer companies have mainly aimed messages at a narrow band of techies who influence what everyone else buys. But with PCs now in more than one-fourth of U.S. households, marketers are using mass media.

At Comdex, the industry's two most powerful players and long time allies will take center stage. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates this morning delivers the first keynote, talking about "Information at Your Fingertips, 2005" and unveiling his online strategies. And Intel President-CEO Andrew Grove delivers another keynote on Wednesday, "Return to the Future II."

Apple and IBM, meanwhile, are working on a technology standard that will allow future models of the Apple Macintosh, some IBM PCs and clones to run the Mac OS, IBM's OS/2 and certain other operating systems in about two years.

Many analysts are skeptical, noting delays in previous IBM/Apple software ventures.

However, Apple today will unveil what it thinks the market wants: a $2,499 Power Macintosh featuring both a PowerPC and Intel 486 chip and Mac OS and Windows 3.1, giving users the option of running Mac and Windows software.

In one sign of how difficult it is to pull off a product alliance, one software package is noticeably absent on the new hybrid Mac-intosh: OS/2 Warp, which Apple ally IBM is intent on making a mass-market product.

"What we're finding now is we're not hearing a lot of demand ... yet for OS/2," said Dave Daetz, Apple cross platform product line manager.

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