TV-PGNovember 19, 2002: Rumors fly that a dramatic Apple-AMD announcement is imminent at COMDEX. Meanwhile, there's going to be a Seattle-area Apple store after all, and yet more video footage of Steve Ballmer provides a fascinating new insight into his apparent inspiration...
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COMDEX: The Plot Thickens (11/19/02)
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Well, presumably we've got a few hours left in which to wring some drama from the Apple-at-COMDEX rumors flitting hither and thither, so we figure, what the heck-- we'll go for it. Waste not, want not... especially in these trying times, when Apple dirt is often scarcer than culottes at a nudist lumberjacks' convention. Ready to play Fourth-Hand Frenzy? Faithful viewer Russell Sussan informed us that MacRumors had noted that AMDZone heard "word at the show" that "a lot of people from Apple... may be present at [AMD CEO] Hector Ruiz's keynote on Tuesday." And the conclusion arrived at by any rational being who follows that extremely authoritative pile o' facts through to its logical end? Why, clearly Apple is about to announce that it's finally chucking all this PowerPC nonsense and migrating the Mac to the x86-based Athlon or Hammer series of chips. Duh.

Okay, that was glib-- sorry about that. After all, such an announcement really isn't beyond the realm of possibility or anything, and AMDZone indeed notes that at a COMDEX press briefing they were flat-out told that AMD's Ruiz "would make a 'shattering' announcement about a new licensee." It's hard to imagine a bigger plot-twist announcement than Apple joining the AMD club. Still, we're having a tough time with that whole "willing suspension of disbelief" thing, largely because we just can't see Apple doing anything as drastic as switching chip platforms right now.

Remember, a switch to x86 would require that all existing Mac software either be rewritten (or at the very least recompiled) for the new processors, or else it'd have to run in emulation. And we're talking real, guts-level processor emulation, here, as in VirtualPC, not just a rehosting of OS calls like Mac OS X's Classic environment. Sure, Apple pulled it off with the 68k-to-PowerPC move, but that worked largely because the PowerPCs were so much faster than the 68k family that the emulated code still wasn't all that slow. Are AMD's chips really that much faster than the G4? Or next year's G5 (whatever the heck that turns out to be) and PowerPC 970? Apple's already trying to manage a split software base with Classic apps and Mac OS X-native ones. If it jumps ship to x86, it's also going to have to deal with x86-native code vs. PowerPC code. Maybe it's just us, but it all sounds like one huge stinkin' mess, and not one Apple would likely take on unless both IBM and Motorola tripped and fell headlong into a giant wood-chipper.

Of course, as Russell points out, it's quite possible that AMD is on the verge of announcing a partnership with Apple that doesn't involve the coming of Hammer-based Macs or what have you. Consider this: is there any particular reason that AMD can only pump out x86-based chips? Is it somehow married to Intel's instruction set? What if Apple came to them and said, "hey, look-- howazbout youse guys crank out some primo PowerPCs for us, and we make it worth your while?" Don't forget, rumors to this effect were floating around over three years ago when AMD opened its massive new chip-fabrication plant in Germany. And at the time, an AMD rep went so far as to say "if we found ourselves in a situation with too much capacity, it might make sense to explore a partner."

Hey, we're not saying it's gonna happen. We're just saying that AMD cranking out Apple-designed PowerPCs might be a shade or two more likely than x86-based Macs hitting the shelves next year. Then again, we personally think it's still even more likely that this "shattering" announcement is just going to involve, say, Dell shipping Hammer systems soon. (Get it? "Shattering"? Hammer?) Whatever. Apparently we'll know whether the Apple rumors hold any water whatsoever in just a few hours' time, so sit tight and enjoy the rampant uncertainty.


 
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Mucho Thankful In Seattle (11/19/02)
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Thanksgiving is just nine days away, and we're about halfway through our intensive pre-feast stomach-stretching regimen. (You have to prepare for these things properly, or there's no way you're going to be able to eat three full helpings and then wolf down a complete pie.) For the foreign viewers who may be unfamiliar with this nifty little holiday, Thanksgiving is the annual occasion on which we pause to reflect on all those things for which we are grateful-- say, iPods, Jaguar, Ellen Feiss, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, etc. And to express our thanks to the Universe at large for these incredible gifts that make life so divine, we then eat twice our body weight in stuffing. Hey, don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

Anyway, down here at the AtAT compound we're thankful that we're soap jockeys by trade and not investigative reporters, because we missed something big yesterday. We're also thankful that our viewers can pick up the slack when we're going at things half-assed because we need to watch Angel a second time to properly digest all the gratuitous Sweeps Month stunts. (Lilah in pigtails and a red bra? Cordy and Connor in a pre-Apocalypse hook-up? Man, we're thankful for November.) Anyway, here's the what: after we mentioned the interesting lack of an Apple retail presence in the Seattle area yesterday, at least a dozen faithful viewers (of which William Vogel was the first) forwarded us a couple of open positions from Apple's web site: namely, a store manager and a Mac Genius needed in Bellevue, Washington.

Ask and ye shall receive, right? According to MapQuest, Bellevue is less than fifteen minutes from Redmond, meaning that this Apple store is setting up shop in the backyard of the Beast itself. Well, whaddaya know? Looks like ol' Steve really isn't chicken after all. And so, all you Pacific Northwesterners who have been steadily complaining about your lack of an Apple store for the past year and a half, suddenly you have something to be super-thankful for come next Thursday: impending retail wackiness. (And, and for the record, Hawaii? As if you don't have enough to be thankful for, you can also toss the Apple Store Honolulu on the pile.)

These job postings are very new, we're told, so don't expect the stores to open anytime soon. Take, for example, the flagship Chicago store on Michigan Avenue, which was formally announced by Apple way back in May of last year. Not only is it still not open for business, but it also currently looks like this. (Photos by David Dahl, as linked over at MacNN.) Heck, who needs a roof, right?

Meanwhile, those of you living near operational Apple retail stores have another little something to give thanks for next Thursday: while the stores will all be closed on Thanksgiving itself so that customers and staff alike might gorge themselves with the utmost efficiency, on Friday the 29th those stores are back open for business-- and there's a stockingful of holiday cheer for everyone who attends. We're talking free gifts, "special values," an iMac giveaway, and even artsy wrapping paper. Ooooo. The festivities run until midnight but don't start until six PM... which should give you just about enough time to drag your bloated, overfed carcass out of bed and down to the mall. Why, this is all working out just grand!


 
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A Van Down By The River (11/19/02)
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Hmmmm, decisions, decisions... We felt this would be a great time to pop in a short Microsoft scene, just as a change of pace, so we went sifting through our mailbag in search of potential plot material, and now we need to decide which angle to cover.

Faithful viewer Andrew Norris forwarded us a Financial Times article which reveals that Microsoft rakes in an astounding 85% profit margin on Windows, even as the company loses money in four other core businesses. This invites all manner of trenchant commentary on the very nature of monopoly, e.g. Microsoft using its chokehold on the desktop OS market to bleed cash from the public in order to finance its attempts to squeeze AOL and the Sony Playstation out of the market with the otherwise money-losing MSN and Xbox. It also calls for a sober dollop of irony in light of the virtual collapse of any sort of effective remedy arising from the "Redmond Justice" antitrust case.

Faithful viewer Axo1ot1, on the other hand, sent us an article from The Inquirer in which the author describes finding a number of nominally sensitive internal Microsoft documents just sitting unprotected on one of the company's own Internet servers. More importantly, though, among those files is yet another video clip of Steve Ballmer at yet another Microsoft rally-- which opens the door for a lot of cheap shots about shaved apes and genetic cloning research gone terribly, terribly awry.

Gee, we wonder which we'll pick?

But we said this'll be a quickie, so we're going to try to keep this short. We've seen this latest video (it's a Microsoft .WMV file; we pasted the URL into Windows Media Player 7 for Mac OS X to view it), and Mr. Ballmer is actually far less simian here than he was when he was bouncing around a stage shrieking like a howler monkey with a painful rash. He's also not perspiring quite as freely as he was when he was chanting the word "developers" over and over again. But here's the thing: the resemblance on some level to the late Chris Farley's "Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker" character is uncanny.

No fooling, folks, and we're not even mostly talking about the obvious visual similarities-- the build, the sweat, the posture. Nope, we're talking about the voice. Go listen to a few Matt Foley sound clips and then watch the Ballmer video and you'll see what we mean. Holy shnikeys, that's eerie! On top of that, you've got Ballmer miming repeatedly running head-first into a wall; not much different than Chris Farley falling on and breaking a coffee table or two, is it? Not to impugn the reputation of the late great Farley, mind you, but what do you think: separated at birth, or channeling spirits from beyond? You be the judge.


 
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