TV-PGJanuary 24, 2000: Our farewell to Hanoch Shalit may have been a tad premature; it's time to appeal! Meanwhile, a doughy face from the past tries to take credit for Steve Jobs's remarkable turnaround, and CompUSA dons a sombrero as new management from south of the border aims to bring the superstore chain back from the brink of irrelevancy...
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"They Killed Hanoch!" (1/24/00)

Silly us! Yesterday we bade adieu to Dr. Hanoch Shalit, an occasional AtAT cast member for the better part of two years by virtue of his dramatically overinflated $1.1 billion patent infringement lawsuit against Apple. If you've been tuning in, you're aware that the judge just tossed the case out on its proverbial ear, claiming that Hanoch didn't even own the patents that Apple was alleged to have infringed, and even if he did, Apple never infringed on them anyway. Like dorks, we assumed that such a one-sided decision from the judge would put this case to rest once and for all-- but we failed to reckon with two factors: Hanoch's shameless and desperate need for attention, and a legal system that, for better or for worse, gives litigants more lives than Kenny from South Park.

That's right; Hanoch has long been King of the Press Release, and the one he issued in response to his case's dismissal is a doozy. Faithful viewer Guy McLimore was the first to point out Hanoch's latest masterpiece, in which he makes the brilliant move of calling the judge "misguided" and announces his plan to appeal. Says Hanoch, "with due respect to the court, the dismissal of our Complaint leads me to question how well the presiding judge understood the highly technical issues involved." Way to insult the judge, buddy. See, Hanoch's beef is that the judge "did not allow a trial by jury to proceed." Because as we all know, a jury is much more likely to understand those "highly technical issues" than a judge is. Or could it be that a jury would be easier to dupe, thereby representing better odds in Hanoch's grab for cash? In any case, it sounds like we'll have him on the show for a while longer.

We suppose we should take this opportunity to issue a public apology to Dr. Shalit; in the past we've surmised that Imatec is a one-man shakedown operation-- Hanoch and his patents. (Sounds like a Woody Allen movie, doesn't it?) But AAPL Investors corrects our false assumption: Imatec is, in fact, a two-man shakedown operation-- CEO Hanoch, and his CFO named James Smith. Which doesn't sound at all like an alias, so stop casting aspersions. Incidentally, AAPL Investors has lots of interesting little tidbits about Imatec; for instance, did you know that the company's total revenue over its twelve-year history amounts to $134,000? Or that for the past two years it's had zero income and a net loss of $6.3 million? Or that four months ago, Hanoch himself sold off 835,000 shares of his own company, representing "over 95%" of his holding and "22.4% of total outstanding shares"? When Hanoch finally fades into oblivion, we at AtAT will be sorry to see him leave the show; after all, what's a soap opera without financial strife and desperate measures?

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Coulda Been A Contender (1/24/00)

Speaking of cast members that leave the show (this segue brought to you by Just Segues: textual transitions for all your dramatic needs!), do you ever reminisce about good ol' Gil Amelio? You remember Gil-- he played Apple's CEO until Steve Jobs took over the role following a bloody boardroom coup. Gil's probably best remembered for just how poorly he managed to integrate his suit-wearing self into Apple's blue-jeans environment. And for a guy who was brought in as a turnaround specialist, we sure didn't see much turning around.

Anyway, Gil's back in the public eye. Faithful viewer John Haytol pointed us towards a BusinessWeek Online interview in which Gil says-- and we quote-- "[Steve's] done great, but I should get all the credit for making [his work] possible." In fact, he even takes credit for Apple's current business strategy: "In the spring of 1996, I wrote a white paper on Apple's strategy. That's the strategy they're pursuing now." Apparently Ol' Gil's problem was simply that he was years ahead of his time. A true visionary. As such, he's eminently qualified to comment on Steve's recent plane-and-stock-options bonus package: "I think that's an absurd number. That is an unreal amount. I'm stunned... That's not good corporate governance." Certainly not as good as, say, stuffing the channel and playing with numbers to give Apple a $12 million quarterly profit in order to qualify for a year-end bonus, right, Gil?

We'll grant him this much: Gil did buy NeXT and he did bring Steve back to Apple, and for that we're grateful. And we're aware that several AtAT viewers rate Gil somewhat highly for supposedly laying the groundwork for everything that Steve actually accomplished-- we'll leave that judgment call up to you. Still, we can't help but think Gil's eating lots of sour grapes... and maybe an overdose is what's giving him Delusions of Competence. His biggest complaint seems to be that Apple canned him after a year and a half, when he thinks he could have really made a difference if he'd have just had three full years. Personally, we shudder to think what Apple's product line would be like today if Gil were still in charge-- probably boxy, beige, and running Windows. Assuming, of course, that Apple would even still be around...

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Under New Management (1/24/00)

Longtime viewers will know that we at AtAT aren't huge fans of CompUSA. Actually, that's not entirely accurate: we don't really have so much of a problem with CompUSA itself. Our beef is with the CompUSA buying experience, which in many cases is tantamount to exfoliating with a cheese grater while rolling in salt. Sure, the Apple stores-within-stores at least make it easier to find what we're looking for (or at least easier to confirm that they don't carry it), but selection, price, display, and sales help are more often than not well below acceptable, especially on the Mac side of things. And have you seen these new CompUSA TV ads? Show us a CompUSA store that's actually that well-lit and we'll forever strike the words "dank" and "foreboding" from our list of adjectives to describe the superstores. Really.

That's why we've never been all that surprised that CompUSA's struggling to stay afloat. Why go to CompUSA when has free overnight delivery? Plus you could always buy direct from Apple-- or Dell or Gateway, if your tastes (or lack of same) run in that direction. Not comfortable with mail order? Then Best Buy generally has better prices on Wintel systems, and the sales help is generally no more incompetent. (How's that for a ringing endorsement?)

So CompUSA's been on the ropes. Grupo Sanborns to the rescue! According to MacCentral, the Mexican company is planning to buy CompUSA lock, stock, and dank, foreboding barrel. What's this mean to Apple, who relies upon CompUSA as its only nationwide reseller carrying the entire Mac product line? No one knows for sure, but a MacNN special report is guardedly optimistic. While Grupo Sanborns may close a few stores to cut losses (boo), the new management may be more willing to work with Apple to improve the Mac buying experience (yay!). Reportedly Apple's been waiting to launch some new marketing programs with CompUSA pending the acquisition, so we'll see if things get better in the coming months. May we request a reduction in the number of stocking ladders blocking the Mac displays, please?

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