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TV-PGJune 13, 2001: Looking to buy a new PowerBook? Strange visions indicate that you might want to wait until Friday. Meanwhile, at least one analyst is expecting an Apple earnings warning any day now, and Palm announces that nobody has actually approached it with a buyout offer...
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A Powerful Burning Feeling (6/13/01)

Perhaps it's unease brought on by the dearth of quality Mac drama fodder lately-- or maybe it's got something to do with the strawberry-and-Tabasco sorbet we invented in a fit of inspiration and self-destruction last night. For whatever reason, on our last visit to Slumberland, the AtAT staff found itself plagued with dreams that we can only describe as visions: omens of things to come. (Well, okay, the part when Steve Jobs turned into a penguin with human feet and started pecking the exposed knees of a shorts-wearing Regis Philbin probably wasn't an omen, but just about everything else was.)

You know us; generally we're very unlikely to advise people to wait before purchasing a Mac just in case a newer model or special deal is just around the corner. But given the strength and clarity of the visions that plagued us last night, we're going to make a very specific suggestion to you, our viewing audience: if you were just about to rush out and snap up a titanium PowerBook G4, you might want to wait until Friday. Just until Friday! That's two measly days; surely a 48-hour delay isn't going to kill you, and Apple's balance sheet isn't likely to be scarred for life just because one or two AtAT viewers decided to heed the portents in some goofy fever-dream by postponing a purchase for a couple of days.

See, here's what we saw: a PowerBook on fire, but it was totally unlike the flaming PowerBook 5300s that frequently chase us in nightmares. Nope, this one was a current model-- a gorgeous slab of titanium, bathed in a powerful flame that burned with all the colors of the iTunes Visuals. Suddenly it split into two; one of the burning PowerBooks ran from us, then, finally stopping three months away and settling happily into its new slot on the calendar. The other nestled squarely on its Friday cushion, but as we watched in awe, the fire poured out of the slot in its front and burned brightly next to the PowerBook; a thin tendril of flame connected the fire to the PowerBook's rear. At that point, the two parties that had been raging in the background ran out of ice and fizzled out, but just then the mailman showed up to deliver a third, which immediately started jamming to iTunes. And then that thing with the Penguin Steve and Regis happened, Regis force-fed us giant marshmallows, and we woke up to discover our pillows were missing.

For those of you unfamiliar with dream analysis and the interpretation of mystical visions, let's just say that we're no longer as sure about a new PowerBook at July's Macworld Expo as we once were-- but Apple may be filling a certain gap in that product's functionality in a slightly less... integrated manner until the new units are ready to rumble. The thing about visions is that unless you happen to be Cordelia from "Angel," they're frequently inaccurate and not to be trusted-- but in this particular instance, we think a two-day wait before placing an order for a PowerBook is at most a minor inconvenience, and the payoff could be big. Still, it's entirely your call. Personally, we weren't in the market for a new PowerBook anyway, so having imparted our divine wisdom, it's back to the Novelty Dessert drawing board. Hmmm... How about "Tabascicles"?

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Warning: Warning Ahead (6/13/01)

Not that glass-half-empty perspectives on Apple Computer are particularly hard to come by or anything, but if you're in the mood for a tour de force of negativity on the company's prospects, look no further than Elyssa Jaffe's report at IDEAadvisor. Not only does her article ferret out just about every possible bad thing that has happened-- or might happen-- to Apple in the short term, but it also conveniently highlights key bummers in boldface just in case you're a busy investor-type who only has time for bad news info-bites. In fact, we'd go so far as to say that Elyssa's work is a veritable masterpiece of easy-to-absorb stinkin' thinkin', and we're grateful to faithful viewer Peter Krall for bringing it to our attention.

But try to look past the screaming boldface reminders of "recent weakness in [the] iMac line," how "demand has flattened," and how AAPL has "slid approximately 20%" in less than a month. Also momentarily ignore the boldface unfounded speculation of potential problems, such as how the new Apple Stores may have "not panned out as expected." If you look carefully, you'll note that the article isn't just a recap of past defeats, present weaknesses, and future nightmares; there's actually a real, honest-to-goodness message to investors, here. That message (in boldface, of course) is this: "further opportunity exists for additional lowering of expectations." In other words, Apple "may yet come out with another warning regarding quarterly results." Still not getting it? Why, then perhaps the title (hey, more boldface!) can help clarify: "Don't be Surprised by an Apple Warning."

Now, since the article isn't exactly clear, we're not entirely sure, but we think Elyssa might be trying to tell us that Apple might issue an earnings warning. An Apple earnings warning? Woo-hoo! Sure, that'd knock the AtAT stock portfolio flat on its butt, but hey, we're talking about a return to some serious hand-wringing drama-- which would at least put a quick end to the news lull in which we've been languishing for some time now. But don't get your hopes up too high; if you run down the list of reasons why Apple is allegedly ripe for bad news, you might notice something strange. Whereas Elyssa is quick to point out weakness in the iMac and Power Mac lines and even mentions that Apple is "behind its peers in introducing a portable web access device or handheld system," she mysteriously omits any mention of the iBook or PowerBook-- the two latest Apple products to get a complete overhaul. Both of which, we're told, have been selling quite well.

So, while an Apple earnings warning might be a nice break from the boredom, we're not exactly holding our breath. Heck, at broadcast time AAPL was even up 5%-- presumably following optimistic rumblings from Goldman Sachs, which we saw noted over at MacMinute. But we can always dream...

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The Palm Stands Alone (6/13/01)

Apple-buys-Palm theorists take note: as faithful viewer Jen Griffin pointed out, just yesterday Palm CEO Carl "Inventory? What Inventory?" Yankowski stated that his beleaguered company hasn't been approached by any potential buyers looking to make an offer. Evidently Steve, having had his prior Palm buyout offer rebuffed, now feels that Apple has better things to do with its $4 billion in cash than spend $3 billion of it on a handheld company. So if Palm was hoping for a bailout from down Cupertino way, it would appear that that ship has sailed. (For its part, Palm has always maintained that it's not looking for a buyer, anyway.)

Instead, Palm hopes to dig itself out of its big dank hole by ruthlessly cutting costs-- and according to a CNET article, poor Carl openly admits that any solution that might actually fix the company would likely involve "more or less dramatically changing [Palm's] business model." That could mean scaling back the Palm.net wireless service and portal, selling off the Palm OS and just making handhelds, ditching the handhelds and just licensing the OS, or even splitting itself down the middle-- one half would be responsible for making and marketing the actual Palm devices, while the other would focus entirely on developing the Palm OS and related technologies.

We at AtAT are no businessmen, but to our unschooled eyes, none of those options really seems to go quite far enough. The way we see it, Palm has two paths most likely to save the platform from extinction. The first is to go crawling back to Steve to beg for a buyout offer; Apple would then run Palm as a wholly-owned subsidiary (think FileMaker) while licensing the Palm OS to itself so that it could release a kickin' Apple handheld with elements of the Newton in effect, but with full Palm compatibility. The second is to bring in Gil Amelio as a turnaround artist. He may not necessarily get the job done, but at the very least maybe he'll hire the person who does...

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Previously, on As the Apple Turns...

TV-PGJune 12, 2001: The granddaddy of all rumors sites pours cold water on the "removable tablet iMac" theory. Meanwhile, Pixar employees are whooping it up in their new Steve-designed headquarters (complete with Love Lounge), and The Register's Tony Smith dons his asbestos skivvies to note that Windows XP's interface may be more revolutionary than Mac OS X's...

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