(Welcome to the World of Endless Reruns! Two decades ago, As the Apple Turns (AtAT) was a daily web-based soap opera obsessively following the melodramatic ins and outs of all things Apple. Now the archives are broadcasting in syndication, so each day you can see what life was like 20 years ago when Apple was still the underdog, all in not-so-fabulous RetroVision™!)

TV-PGFebruary 28, 2000: Ars Technica shows what happens when good Docks go bad; icons get teensy and wackiness ensues. Meanwhile, all those nifty new Macs introduced in Tokyo may actually be available (really!), and Apple sticks in fourth place for January computer sales, but the signs are good for continued prosperity...
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Hickory Dickory Dock (2/28/00)
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Here's three things about Aqua that we absolutely love: 1) the "Genie effect"; 2) cursor magnification in the Dock; and 3) the way that just about everyone immediately registered an opinion about Aqua despite the fact that almost nobody had used it yet. Really, the phosphors on our monitor had barely faded from Steve's Expo webcast before some thirty-odd in-depth technical dissections of Aqua (complete with analyses of the political and moral ramifications of Apple's new user interface) sprung forth from the minds and fingers of people everywhere with even more time on their hands than we've got. And most of those articles-- which generally either praised Aqua as the Second Coming of the Mac, or trashed it as an abomination in the eyes of the Interface Gods-- were based on little more than Steve's hour-long canned demo of a pre-release operating system as witnessed in a smeary little QuickTime Player window. You can't buy press coverage that intense!

Things are a little different now, though. The Aqua articles of late are generally more well-informed, tempered with the passage of time and the fact that some people have actually gotten to use the darn thing. See, Apple shipped Mac OS X DP3 to developers some time ago, and it includes the first semi-public release of the Aqua interface-- which means all those arguments about how the Dock sucks actually have some real substance behind them. In particular, we heartily recommend the analysis of Mac OS X DP3 available at geek site Ars Technica, whose Trial By Water is well-reasoned, intelligent, smashingly thorough, and utterly perverse when it comes to testing Aqua's responses to silly stimuli. You just have to love any article in which the author's first impulse is to stick two thousand items into the Dock just to see what happens...

What happens, incidentally, made us laugh out loud: the icons shrink to 6x8 pixels in size, and the Dock displays only as many items as can fit in one row across the screen. You have to see the screenshot to appreciate the humor-- keep in mind that it's a full-size image, so what you see is literally what Ars Technica got. Granted, you can set the minimum icon size much larger than 6x8, but even at that ridiculously tiny size only the first 170 or so items still fit on the screen. Conclusion? The Dock needs work. It may be super in the eye candy department (and terrific as comic relief, as well), but it sure isn't going to replace our pop-up windows coupled with the Application Switcher. After all, even if we were to accept our fate and live in permanent squint mode, 170 items is just too few; we've got tons more than that in pop-ups. Hey Apple, is there any reason that a folder dropped into the Dock couldn't yield an icon that functions as a pop-up window when clicked? That'd sure put our minds at ease. In any case, Apple's got time yet to improve things, and we're reasonably confident that they wouldn't ship a final product as goofy as the current Dock. Right?


 
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Reply Hazy, Try Again (2/28/00)
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When faithful viewer Adam pointed out a MacWEEK article claiming that availability of Apple's new gear was pretty good, we admit, we were skeptical. After all, the world just doesn't work that way. But apparently MacWEEK wasn't lying, because reports are coming in from the furthest reaches of the cosmos confirming the news: the new Macs really are "available now." The veterans of past Steve Product Unveilings among you may need a little time to adjust-- we sure did. After all, we'd just taken it for granted that Apple's late-1997 policy not to announce products until they're actually available had gone out the window starting with the iMac's 90-day teaser premiere.

In recent years, we who follow Apple's epic saga have had to master the theory of Jobsian relativity, which holds that any ship date issuing forth from Uncle Steve's lips must be extended by a variable multiplier, determined by a complex series of equations. These equations attempt to map the non-linear time translation between our dimension and that of Steve's homeworld; they factor in the presence/absence of the dreaded turtleneck sweater, the humidity of the keynote hall in which the announcement is made, and how much bottled water Steve imbibes onstage prior to the product unveiling. (In addition, they also include minor adjustments for such mundane factors as current DRAM prices and the availability of LCD display panels, but the effect of those is generally near-negligible.) In this manner, those of us "in the know" have been able to make the distinction between the phrase "available now" and the same phrase uttered while making "air quotes" with our fingers-- which could mean anywhere from two to six weeks. Neat, huh?

Except this time, Steve's apparently gone and flummoxed us all; he announced immediate availability, and it appears that's what we got. Elite Computers & Software, Inc. (which has the enviable position of sitting right across the street from Apple's headquarters) claims to have "a very large supply of Power Mac G4 400s, 450s, and 500s" and "a pretty good-size truckload" of Graphite iBook Special Editions. Other retailers are reporting similar stories. As for the new PowerBooks, well, we all know how new PowerBooks lag. But reportedly everyone's expecting a shipment sometime this week. We'll believe it when we see it, but for now we've given up on the Jobsian Relativity equations in favor of a Magic 8-Ball. Will the Pismo surface this week? (Shake, shake, shake) "Outlook Good." What's it say when you ask it?


 
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The Numbers Don't Lie (2/28/00)
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You know, way back at the dawn of creation, we never thought we'd look at computer sales figures and see anything but dry, dull statistics. That was, of course, before Apple's sales figures turned first into a cliffhanger deathwatch, as market share spiralled away like so much bathwater down the drain, and then became the underdog feel-good story of the century, with the iMac cast as the Little Computer That Could. Perhaps these days the numbers aren't quite so thrilling, but they're still important-- and they indicate whether or not Apple continues to gain ground in its fight for the heart, minds, and dollars of the public. (Okay, so it ain't Rudy; it's still interesting.)

So we're glad that MacNN is still keeping an eye on Apple's position in PC Data's monthly stats. In January of 2000, Apple captured 10.9% of the retail and mail order market, for a fourth-place standing, behind Compaq (34%), Hewlett-Packard (32.1%), and eMachines (12.9%). Scary? A little, sure; seeing Compaq and HP mopping up two-thirds of the market all by their lonesome gives us the heebie-jeebies. And seeing eMachines beating out Apple again, well, that's just plain icky. Still, a fourth-place finish is nothing to sneeze at, considering Apple was considered all but dead a few years back. Heck, we remember being ecstatic when Apple's share increased to 5.9%...

And beyond that glass-half-full look at a 10.9% market share, there's other good news, too. Take, for example, the fact that the average price of computers has been on the rise for the past four months straight. Why is that good news? Because the average selling price is still only $873-- well below the price of Apple's least expensive system, the $999 iMac. So consumers are apparently becoming more and more willing to pay extra for a nicer product, which bodes well for Apple's overall sales strategy. And even more importantly, as of last month, Apple's unit sales grew another 17% over the previous year-- whereas the Wintel market grew only 7.7%. It's only a matter of time, folks-- a slow victory, but a victory nonetheless.


 
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Previously, on As the Apple Turns...

TV-PGFebruary 27, 2000: In memoriam, we look back to our one and only live encounter with Don Crabb, back in the pre-AtAT days...

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