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TV-PGApril 6, 2000: What's on the agenda for Monday's mystery "media event," starring Apple, Matrox, and Pinnacle at NAB? Meanwhile, iReview gets an overhaul, but the new "Mac News and Information" category only features six sites (owned by three entities), and Microsoft reveals once more just how stupid it thinks we all are...
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Sorta Easy To Guess (4/6/00)

Have you been playing the guessing game after reading Apple's latest Media Alert? In case you missed it, Apple's teaming up with Matrox and Pinnacle to hold a three-way press conference on Monday at the National Association of Broadcasters conference. There's no indication as to what the subject of the conference will be, so it's a great exercise for those of us who like to engage in rampant speculation. Is it a buyout? A merger? One of those "strategic partnerships?" The mind reels.

Of course, it doesn't reel too far. After all, the clues aren't very subtle. First off, Matrox is probably best-known for making graphics cards, but they also churn out professional broadcast video tools like the RT2000 system. Pinnacle also makes pro video systems, like the DV500, which directly competes with Matrox's offering. Then we've got Apple, who lists "content creators" as one of its core markets, and who has its own professional video-editing software, Final Cut Pro. Apple would like nothing more than to stem the defection of video producers to the Dark Side, and what better way than by introducing a couple of new high-end video editing systems that are built for the Mac?

According to Mac OS Rumors, that's probably just what we'll get. Pinnacle, at least, is said to be unveiling "a new uncompressed digital video I/O solution (reportedly a single-slot PCI system) for the Mac that will be supported by Final Cut Pro." There's no reason to think that Matrox won't do the same. And the fact that this rumored system is a single-slot solution may possibly set to rest the spirit of the late Don Crabb, who railed tirelessly against Apple's decision never to ship a professional Mac with more than three PCI slots; finally, the ones who needed those slots the most-- video people-- may have a solution or two that makes a Power Mac G4 a perfect platform choice. Stay tuned until Monday...

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New But Still Anemic (4/6/00)

Hey, been to iReview lately? At first we thought Apple might be abandoning its "Critical Guide To The Web," when its content remained static for a couple of months after the site's debut. For ages, there were only eleven sites reviewed in the "Computers" category. Finally, Apple updated its content about a month ago-- and then there were twelve. (Needless to say, AtAT didn't make the cut.)

But now iReview's gotten something resembling a complete overhaul. The layout's been redone for easier navigation, and the home page proudly boasts that the site now hosts "306 reviews." Intrigued, we decided to check out the Computers section again and see what, if anything, had changed. What we found was that Apple has finally divided up the overly-broad "Computers" category into three bite-sized chunklets: General Tech News and Information, Programming and Web Development, and Mac News and Information. Hey, it looks like we Mac-addicted web surfers finally have our own category!

Don't get too excited, though; the Mac section of iReview consists of reviews for a whopping six sites. What's worse, four of them-- MacCentral, MacWEEK, Macworld Online, and ZDNet Apple/Mac News-- are all owned and run by the same people, and they all cross-link to the same content. Only TidBITS and MacFixit are represented as independent, Apple-sanctioned Mac news sites. You can consider this a coincidence if it makes you feel more comfortable, but deep down we all know the real reason: Apple's trying to steer Mac surfers towards sites with "approved" content. Why else would they review only six Mac info sites? There are dozens! Where's MacAddict, for example? Too edgy? And if one of the biggest Mac magazines can't get listed on iReview, you know that the rumors sites like Mac OS Rumors and AppleInsider don't stand a chance. And AtAT? Well, we'll probably get listed on Microsoft's site before we make it onto iReview. In fact, we already have been.

Correction: Faithful viewer Adam Gillitt points out that Ziff-Davis (the ZDNet folks) do not own Macworld, MacWEEK, and MacCentral. Those three are indeed all owned by Mac Publishing LLC, but even though ZDNet hosts Macworld and MacWEEK's sites and shares content, ZD's a whole separate entity. Thanx to Adam for the correction.

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Smarter Than You Think (4/6/00)

Speaking of Microsoft, forgive the extended-play rant, but we think we've finally put our finger on why that particular company bothers us so freakin' much. It's not the rampant mediocrity of its products. It's not the fact that everybody uses them in spite of said mediocrity. It's not even that the company engages in sleazy and illegal practices in order to promote the further use of all those mediocre products. In our minds, Microsoft's unforgivable crime is the way in which it thinks we're all a pack of mouth-breathing troglodytes with more dollars than sense, just waiting to be bilked out of our cash. C'mon, think about it; so many of Microsoft's marketing initiatives clearly reveal an utter contempt for the buying public and a disturbingly low opinion of our collective intelligence.

If you watch any network TV, you've seen at least one example of this over the past couple of days. There's a new Microsoft commercial in heavy network rotation, and it's quite different from the ones we're all used to seeing. This one features a besweatered Bill Gates, speaking directly to us not about Windows 2000, or Internet Explorer, or any particular product. Instead he's rattling on about touchy-feely junk like how Microsoft started with "nothing but an idea," how they worked to "harness the power of the PC" to "improve people's lives," and how their current goal is to "keep innovating" because "best is yet to come." Bro-ther. Is this fooling anybody? Isn't anyone else incredibly insulted by this transparent and obvious grab for public sympathy? Microsoft lost in the courts (largely in part due to the same arrogance the company displays when it pulls stunts like this), and now they trot out the world's richest man in a humble sweater to croak out platitudes in his Kermitesque voice about how Microsoft's just out to help mankind move forward. The unstated message, of course, is that the Big Bad Government is trying to stop them from doing their incredibly charitable and worthwhile work. Yeesh.

And if you're on the same junk mail lists that we're on, you saw another example this week: a brochure titled "Confessions: The Secret Lives of Mac Users and Microsoft Products." Yes, this piece of dross is targeted at people just like us: Mac users who don't like Microsoft. So what do they do? They quote "three self-described Mac fanatics" who "anonymously endorse using Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer... Their names have been changed to protect them from jealous friends, naysaying roommates, and other Mac users who have yet to realize that it really is okay to use Microsoft products." So now we're supposed to believe that Microsoft is the underdog, right?

It gets better. The first Mac fanatic offers a ringing endorsement for Office 98: "Hello, what else would I use?" In other words, it's the only choice, so give up and buy it, already. Way to endear themselves with Microsoft-haters. The second guy uses Word 98 so he can create "files that other people can actually access and read." Okay, so everyone else on the planet's been brainwashed into using Word, so now we Mac users should, too, or else no one's going to be able to use our files. Yeah, we're seeing the light, now. This brochure is really winning us over.

But the last is by far the best: "I've been a Mac user since the beginning. When I caught my son using Internet Explorer 5, I accused him of abandoning the faith..." Folks, we got this brochure on Wednesday afternoon. It arrived via the same presorted standard U.S. postage that lots of junk mail uses. It's a full-color glossy brochure with fancy layout and snazzy graphics. IE5 came out nine days before this pack of lies showed up in our mailbox. There's no way on Gates's green earth that some guy caught his son using the Mac version of IE5 and told Microsoft about it in time for this brochure to be created, printed, and sent via presorted mail. Again, how stupid can they possibly think we are? If you dig through the fine print, you find a nice little disclaimer that says, "The Mac fanatics portrayed in this brochure are entirely fictitious." Well, duh.

This is no different from those full-page ads Microsoft took out in major newspapers featuring "letters to the editor" in support of the company during its antitrust woes, which were in fact written entirely by Microsoft's own marketing department. And in a sense it's no different from when the company figured the government and Judge Jackson were too stupid to notice in court that its videotaped lab tests were faked. Over and over again, our collective intelligence is insulted by this company that thinks the rest of the world can be bilked by these tactics. And then we look at the market share numbers, and we become aware of the sad truth that Microsoft is probably correct...

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Previously, on As the Apple Turns...

TV-PGApril 5, 2000: Darwin 1.0 is out, but don't expect it to offer a free sneak peek at Mac OS X in all its glory. Meanwhile, the Netscape 6 "preview release" comes to the Mac on the same day that it surfaces for Windows; too bad it's nothing like a Mac application should be. And "Redmond Justice" may draw to an abrupt close following a Washington lobbying visit by none other than Bill "Who Wants Cash?" Gates...

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