TV-PGOctober 21, 1999: Mac OS 9 is ready to roll, and the rest of Apple's product line joins in for a weekend chock full of Demo Days madness. Meanwhile, our local Sears may get a Steve Jobs smackdown if Apple implements a customer retail report form on its web site, and Bill Gates won't be getting an honorary degree from the University of Victoria, despite his deep, deep pockets...
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Gear Up, Party Down (10/21/99)

Here we are, scant hours away from the debut of Mac OS 9. Well, the official debut, anyway-- there were those 450 copies accidentally sent out early by some poor schmoe at Apple who likely had his pink slip autographed and laminated by the Mighty Steve himself. (Hey, at least it'll fetch a good price on eBay.) Now that Mac OS 9 is ready to sell, and there are a semi-reasonable number of Power Mac G4s, iMac DVs, and even a few iBooks in the channel, this is the perfect weekend for a massive Apple Demo Days extravaganza-- so that's just what's going to happen. Thanks to Jerry O'Neil for pointing us towards MacWEEK's coverage of the big event.

Yup, Demo Days promotions are scheduled at a slew of Sears and CompUSA stores, and several Fry's and MicroCenter locations, and other smaller chains and stores are planning their own independent throwdowns. Several stores, such as Creative Computers' retail outlet in Santa Monica (they're the MacMall folks) and Elite Computers in Cupertino (right across from Apple's main campus, we think), are even having "Midnight Madness" sales so that rabid Mac fans can buy their copies of Mac OS 9 right at 12:01. So if you just gotta be the first on the block to have Mac OS 9, there are ways to do it-- plus you can party down with all the funky new Macs in Apple's product line, too.

Sadly, a couple of Apple products probably won't make the party. The new $999 base-level Blueberry iMac has yet to be seen anywhere, apparently, so the multiflavored iMac DVs are going to get all the attention. And then there's the PowerBook G3. Since the poor thing hasn't been updated since last May, we have a feeling that it'll get short shrift amid all the hubbub surrounding Apple's newest products. After all, the PowerBook is Apple's only computer that still lacks an AirPort slot-- how over is that? It just screams "mid-1999." But at least it's still the only Apple product with a light-up logo, so maybe it won't be a total wallflower.

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Pyrotechnics in Sears (10/21/99)

Longtime fans of the show are painfully aware that AtAT's local Sears is an absolute disgrace when it comes to Macintosh sales displays. Not that Sears stores in general are the Aristotelian ideal for the effective floor display of any product, but there's a definite relative difference in badness when it comes to Macs at this particular store. Whereas, say, a floor-model Kenmore refrigerator might have a mildly-dented freezer door and be missing one of the easy-clean glass shelves, a display iMac is more likely to have six System Folders and a hard disk named "fdskl3kl3a54a453333" (on a good day it's something at least vaguely more creative, like "MY BUTT IS C00000LLLL!!!!!!!"), be stuck at a bomb dialog, have no mouse, be covered in graffiti (Sharpie on polycarbonate is truly a wonder to behold), and be on fire.

Well, okay, maybe it's not that bad. But actually, if the iMac were on fire, then at least it might attract some attention to itself for a change, since it's buried waaay at the end of the aisle, blocked from view to all but the hardiest customers willing to brave the depths of the rat-maze occasionally referred to by local wits as the "Sears computer department." As of today, there's still no iBook on display, though the translucent plastic iBook brochure dispenser is now empty as it sits next to the prominently-displayed Compaq laptop under the giant "Intel Inside" signs. Based on what we've seen, we're starting to think that maybe there had been an iBook on display at one time, but it was blown up by gelignite-toting vandals while the sales team stood idly by, complaining about how "work is hard."

But maybe someday, instead of regaling our viewers with these horror stories, we'll actually be able to complain to someone at Apple who can work to correct the situation. (We'd email Steve Jobs, but somehow we suspect that by now he's got a mail filter set to redirect any messages that include the words "Sears" or "CompUSA" and the phrase "sucks rocks.") According to Mac OS Rumors, Steve's been seen slumming with an unidentified entourage at his local CompUSA stores to check out the state of the Apple stores-within-stores. If the rumors are true, this is supposedly part of Apple's new grand focus on improving its dismal retail presence-- and the most exciting factor to us personally is this rumored plan to allow "volunteer Mac supporters to visit authorized retail stores and return a 'report' to Apple via the Internet on their performance." We say, bring it on-- provided, of course, someone's actually going to read the literally thousands of reports that such a plan would generate, and do something productive with the info. Actually, even if the reports just go into the bitbucket, at least it'd give us a place to vent without boring the pants off our four thousand daily viewers...

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No Degree For Billy G. (10/21/99)

You'd think that the richest man in the world could pretty much buy anything he wants, right? In fact, when you're that rich, people even give you stuff you never asked for-- it's kind of backwards, but it's true. So we found it profoundly refreshing that apparently the bigwigs at the University of Victoria (you know, in Canada) were able to keep the dollar signs out of their eyes long enough to vote against offering Bill Gates an honorary degree. Faithful viewer Keith Lim pointed out an article in The Globe and Mail with all the details on this rare academic snub.

Bill, as you probably know, has been making noises about how he plans to give away a lot of his filthy lucre to charitable causes over the next ten years. And he's given lots of money to educational institutions in the past-- and the lucky recipients aren't chosen at random, either. For instance, there's the twenty million bucks he gave to MIT's Lab for Computer Science, which even the most gullible observer could interpret as a Microsoft investment in talent rather than a charitable donation. And another twenty million went to Duke University-- his wife's alma mater. Coincidence? Yeah, right; the "gift" came right after she was named to the board of trustees. Before that, Gates mostly gave to the University of Washington instead.

So the University of Victoria is to be commended for voting against throwing a degree at Bill in hopes of getting a big check (er, cheque) thrown back-- especially given all the reasons raised why Bill didn't deserve the honor. There's the 1997 higher-education licensing change, which removed students' rights to use University-licensed software on their dorm-room computers via the campus network. There's the blatantly shifty 1998 deal that offered professors $200 bribes to "[mention or use] Microsoft programming tools in a scholarly presentation." And of course there's that whole "Redmond Justice" antitrust thing still going on. To that list, we at AtAT would like to add the fact that in his "Redmond Justice" deposition, Mr. Gates revealed a startling lack of command of his own native language, as he asked for definitions of simple words including "concern," "complete," and "we." Really, would you give this guy an honorary degree? (Ask us again when there's a $20 million carrot dangling in front of our faces.)

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