TV-PGJanuary 10, 2000: Aqua didn't just show up onstage with Steve last Wednesday-- it also emerged in a Windows product unveiled the very same day. Meanwhile, a CBS MarketWatch columnist presents evidence that Apple yearns to be more like Microsoft, and Steve Jobs threw a bit of a hissy fit over wristwatches at last week's show...
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That Dastardly Steve! (1/10/00)
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A few years back, you swooned at the sheer mercenariness of the End of Cloning. Last year you reeled in horror at the G4 Speed Dump. But now, ladies and gentlemen, we bring you the scandal to end all scandals: Aquagate!! Yes, by the time the terrible truth dawns upon you, your voluntary motor functions will spontaneously shut down and you'll wonder how you ever thought Apple's elimination of free lifetime tech support was such a big deal. It's that bad.

Now, we at AtAT oohed and aahed over Mac OS X's new Aqua interface during last week's keynote just like everyone else. But that was before faithful viewer Keith Lim pointed out that a small company called Stardock has a Windows product called Object Desktop. Object Desktop reworks the Windows interface to make it less... well, we suppose the most charitable way to put it would be "butt-ugly." Now take a look at this screenshot of Stardock's product in action and tell us whether or not it rings any bells.

Obviously what happened here was that Apple sent in corporate spies to infiltrate Stardock and swipe their interface. Think of it-- was anybody expecting Steve to unveil Mac OS X and its new look and feel? No. So why was it done? To beat Stardock to the punch! Stardock's press release announcing the Object Desktop Network is dated January 5th-- the same day as Steve's keynote. Obviously Apple just wanted to rush their cheap rip-off out the door so they could claim they were first. For shame-- we expect such behavior from certain companies in the Redmond area, but from Apple?

There's another possibility, we suppose; Stardock's slogan is "delivering software at the speed of thought!" Could they mean that literally? Maybe they saw Aqua at Steve's keynote and managed to build and release a complete Windows copy before the end of the day. That's certainly more plausible than a scenario as far-fetched as, say, Stardock getting access to pre-announcement Aqua screenshots, working up a product from their stolen intellectual property, and timing its release immediately after Aqua's first public showing so as not to be sued for trade secret violations. Only the truly paranoid could believe such a yarn...


 
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Grasping At Straws (1/10/00)
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Speaking of comparing Apple to Microsoft (let's hear it for that segue, folks! Give it a nice round of applause!), faithful viewers Jason Curtis and Russell Maggio both noted a CBS MarketWatch article which does just that. Author Rebecca Lynn Eisenberg apparently feels that Apple is "becoming [its] enemy" and choosing to emulate the Redmond Giant. Is that a reasonable evaluation of Apple's new "Beyond The Box" strategy? Hey, that's up to you-- we just work here.

As evidence, Rebecca points to Apple's long-overdue Internet strategy and claims that it's exactly what Microsoft tried to do with MSN and failed. She insists that the whole Apple.com scheme is Apple's attempt to become a software company instead of a hardware company because desktop boxes are becoming "obsolete." (Never mind that the whole point of the Mac-only nature of iTools is clearly to sell more Macs.) Meanwhile, she also points out how Apple is "embedding" more Internet applications into the Mac OS without fear of Justice Department reprisal: Sherlock 2, QuickTime Player, and (in Mac OS X) the new email application. As for Aqua, Rebecca insists that it "borrows generously" from Windows and its features are "old hat" to Windows users. Her last piece of evidence of the Microsofting of Apple? "Apple is finally making money." Finally. Because the company sure hasn't been profitable for over two full years now, or anything.

Again, like we said, make up your own mind on the matter, but to us, Rebecca's arguments seem specious at best. If she's right, however, and Steve's planning on remaking Apple into the next Microsoft, we can only hope that our Mighty Mac Makers can avoid Microsoft's court woes. For instance, according to ZDNet, Microsoft temp workers finally prevailed in their 1992 suit against their employer for unfairly excluding them from the company stock purchase program. Then faithful viewer Jerry O'Neil pointed out an Associated Press article describing Microsoft's decision to settle Caldera's antitrust suit out of court. And of course there's that whole "Redmond Justice" thing still in the works. Well, if Apple chooses to copy Microsoft on the legal front as well, at least we won't have to worry about AtAT plot material ever again...


 
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Watch The Drama (1/10/00)
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We knew there had to have been some serious drama at last week's Macworld Expo! Not having been present, though, we weren't able to sniff out the truly soap-operatic action ourselves; thank heaven for MacWEEK, who dug up a nice little nugget of melodrama that came to us courtesy of AppleLinks. If you're looking for a hissy fit on the show floor, just tail Steve Jobs for a while.

It seems that Steve stumbled upon a booth manned by the good folks over at AppleWatches.com, who make nifty little timepieces emblazoned with the Apple logo. Now, as far as Steve's concerned, the Apple logo is sacrosanct, so he was apparently quite incensed at seeing the holy sigil being used as a marketing ploy to push wristwatches. In fact, poor ol' Steve "waved his arms and loudly demanded that the booth close down immediately." Whoops! Looks like Steve didn't know that AppleWatches holds a valid license to use the Apple logo on their merchandise, which won't expire until sometime next year. In addition, we now have proof that Steve doesn't micromanage every aspect of Apple's day-to-day business, because despite Steve's ignorance of the arrangement, "all watch designs have been approved by Apple itself."

Poor Steve. He worked so hard to re-establish Apple as a magical brand, to restore that special luster to Apple's once-tarnished logo-- only to find that others are using it to sell wristwatches. With Apple's blessing, no less. Not that they're bad watches or cheesy designs; on the contrary, we think they look quite nice. But we're sure that Steve wants the Apple logo to be used by Apple and only Apple. Suppose Gil Amelio is enjoying a fond little chuckle right now? After all, it was he who granted AppleWatches their license in the first place. Revenge from beyond the CEO grave!


 
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