TV-PGOctober 20, 1999: The Cancellation Saga continues, as Apple iteratively agrees to reinstate more and more of the deep-sixed G4 pre-orders. Meanwhile, the mind reels amid a Mac the Knife report that the man behind the G4 slowdown with no price break was not Steve Jobs, and a personal anecdote illustrates the importance of being very careful when dealing with stores like CompUSA...
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Full Bloody Circle (10/20/99)

Bet you thought Apple's G4 cancellation fiasco ended last Monday with Steve Jobs' public apology, right? Wrong. This debacle is longer than a Meatloaf song and has just as many false stops. Let's recap: a week ago on Wednesday, Apple, fearing that too much good news might send its stock price into the low teens, tempered their better-than-expected earnings with the announcement that the whole Power Mac G4 line was being downgraded 50 MHz while the prices were remaining the same. In addition, just to add a poke in the eye to that kick in the teeth, it was also revealed that all pre-orders for the original, faster G4 systems had been cancelled. That was the beginning of Apple's "Week That Felt Like A Month."

Then on Thursday, following much wailing and gnashing of teeth by the Macintosh community, word got out that Apple had revised their policy; the Apple Store would in fact reinstate pre-orders for G4 systems at the originally quoted prices. But on Friday it seemed that only Apple Store pre-orders were being reinstated; orders placed through resellers would not be honored. And then Monday came, bringing the official Apple press release and its revised revised policy stating that Apple would "honor all orders... placed before Wednesday, October 13, at the originally quoted prices, including those placed with the Company's resellers which were accompanied by a purchase order, or a cash or credit card deposit." And that was the end of that-- in theory, anyway. (Kudos to MacWEEK's editors for somehow untangling the whole mess and laying out the baffling facts in their editorial.)

But that "purchase order/deposit" clause left a lot of people wondering. Just because you pre-order something with a credit card doesn't mean you've put down a deposit; usually the reseller doesn't bill your card until they ship you the goods. Which means that the vast majority of non-Apple-Store G4 pre-orders were not covered by Apple's revised revised policy, as confirmed by many people who called and asked. Thank goodness, then, for the revised revised revised policy as noted by MacNN: "as of midnight [Tuesday night], Apple is telling resellers that it is now honoring all orders placed on or before October 13th at pre-configuration-change pricing-- regardless of whether a deposit was made on the machine. (This includes credit card orders, which were explicitly discounted in a statement to us yesterday.)"

And so, faithful viewers, only one week after the initial G4 order cancellations, Apple has finally managed to work its way all the way back to right where it was before the whole mess started-- while amassing a ball of negative energy so dense, not even apologies can escape. Heck, if Apple could somehow harness that power, they'd have a PowerBook that could show A Bug's Life about eighty thousand times on one charge-- and yet we doubt that Apple's intentionally collecting negative vibes in the interest of battery life product development. Anyway, thankfully, the whole mess is over. Unless there's a revised revised revised revised policy on its way right now. (If there is, we bet it says "All pre-October 13th G4 orders have been cancelled again.")

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Whose Bad Acid IS This? (10/20/99)

Now that the whole "G4 pre-order cancellation" thingy has finally been resolved, people in the market for a professional Macintosh are still feeling pinched by Apple's bizarre plan to alleviate G4 availability problems by selling slower systems at the same price. This is, as far as we know, completely unprecedented in the entire history of the computer industry; everyone knows computers get faster and cheaper, but evidently Apple's really thinking differently these days. And the question on everyone's mind is this: Has Steve finally gone (more) bonkers?

Ah, but you assume too much, grasshopper. Given the sheer craziness of the idea, everyone immediately figured that this is a Steve plan-- and we admit, it's got Jobs' megalomaniacal RDF-infused "I can do anything I want" smell all over it, so we can't fault you for the assumption. But while the G4 downgrade plan freaks us out to the nth degree, what totally blows our mind is the rumor that Mac the Knife's peddling these days. Dig through the obscure pop-cultural references and drug humor, and you'll find the Knife casually revealing that the "breathtakingly inept" plan to slow down the G4s while keeping prices the same was the brainchild of none other than-- Fred Anderson.

Yes, Fred Anderson. Mr. Money. The Moolah Man. Apple's Chief Financial Officer, usually a rock-steady balancing force that complements Steve's stormy nature, is rumored to have hatched the evil scheme while the Mercurial Mr. Jobs was distracted by a shiny object or something. Say it ain't so, Fred! Is it possible? Could the man largely responsible for getting Apple's financial house back in order have been the source of such a flighty scheme? Normally, we'd dismiss such a rumor immediately, but it's hard to ignore one little fact: when the plan was announced, Apple's stock price went up, and not just because of (or in spite of?) Apple's better-than-expect profits. Reportedly Wall Street liked the G4 slowdown plan, because it's an "innovative" way to react to G4 supply constraints. Just waiting for faster chips means fewer boxes sold, but an across-the-board slowdown of the Power Mac line apparently sounded like a good idea to the Street. Fred, Fred, Fred... Where have all the heroes gone?

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Always Check. ALWAYS. (10/20/99)

Yes, Virginia, there are iBooks available for the patient-- and they're even more available for the not-so-patient. We at AtAT can now say that a blood-relative has taken delivery of her brand-spanking-new Blueberry iBook, though if she hadn't gone down to CompUSA and rattled a few cages, she'd still be waiting. Here's the story in a nutshell: after countless crashes, excessive downtime, and other frustrating Wintel-style behavior on both her Compaq Presario at work and her husband's Packard Bell system at home, a couple of months ago my cousin actually put down a deposit on an iBook at CompUSA, sight unseen. (Actually, she'd seen one of the iBook brochures we picked up at Macworld Expo, but that's all-- and she's never used a Mac in her life.) The entire pre-order process was reportedly completely flummoxing to the sales staff, who had difficulty answering any questions about the amount of the deposit, whether the deposit guaranteed an iBook by a certain date, what kind of financing was available, etc. But after much consultation, head-scratching, and general befuddlement, the CompUSA staff was apparently able to book the pre-order and take my cousin's money.

Last Thursday night she gave us a call and vented her anger at CompUSA, since they had originally quoted her a late September delivery time and yet, as of the middle of October, she was still iBookless. I explained to her that the earthquake in Taiwan had shaken up an already rather late production schedule, but finding that the local Sears had two iBooks on the shelf wasn't helping matters any-- CompUSA already had her nonrefundable deposit. So on Friday she walked into CompUSA to check on her order status in person, since her deposit guaranteed her a place in line as iBooks trickled in to fill pre-orders. Imagine her dismay to be told that, despite her $250 deposit, CompUSA could find no record of her pre-order. So while she'd been told she was one of the very first on the list when she placed the order, if she hadn't gone in to investigate, she wouldn't have gotten an iBook at all. Let's hear it for CompUSA's stunning level of competency, folks! (Yes, we know there are good CompUSAs out there-- and even some Mac-friendly ones. But stories like this "mysterious disappearing order" seem to be the rule, not the exception.)

Anyway, she got hold of the manager, who, to be fair, was entirely apologetic, admitted that the store screwed up, and even offered to sell my cousin the demo iBook right then and there. She declined, instead opting for her other choice-- a boost to the very top of the pre-order list and a phone call when the next iBook became available. And so, five days later, she brought home the bright Blueberry addition to the family. It's a happy ending, overall (or a happy beginning, really, for a self-confessed computer illiterate just starting on the road to Macdom), though her one suggestion to Apple is to "get out of CompUSA because they don't know what the hell they're doing." Food for thought.

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