TV-PGNovember 2, 2001: Word leaks that a Taiwanese manufacturer is producing 600,000 PDAs for Apple; too bad it's not true. Meanwhile, CNET scrapes together yet another "OS Death Match," this time pitting Mac OS X against Windows XP, and the Justice Department agrees to a "Redmond Justice" settlement that's less of a slap on the wrist than it is a big, sloppy kiss on the... well, you get the idea...
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Apple PDA: Give Up, Already (11/2/01)

Man, what is it with Taiwanese manufacturing subcontractors and Loose Lips Syndrome? Frankly, we wouldn't mind so much if their leaked info ever turned out to be true, but usually they're just yanking our collective chain. Perhaps you recall a report way back in January of last year which insisted that an Apple-branded Palm OS device was rolling off a Taiwanese assembly line. If that were true, then it's sort of odd that the product hasn't actually shipped yet. Then there was that Alpha Top claim last May just after the iBook unveiling that the company was about to start building Apple even newer iBooks with a "wider screen" and a "variety of colors" come July; Apple actually had to break its "we don't comment on rumors" policy to deny that report to prevent iBook sales from plunging through the floor.

Anyway, the latest bit of faux Apple-related "inside info" apparently originating from a Taiwanese manufacturing concern dredges up the time-honored rumor of an imminent Apple PDA. It seems that the Economic Daily News somehow got the idea that Inventec Corp, a notebook computer manufacturer, had been tapped by Apple to make 600,000 PDAs bearing the Apple brand-- a "fact" which it then dutifully reported to its readers. But faithful viewer JasonBoy notes that a Reuters story quotes Inventec's finance manager as stating that "no one knows anything about winning Apple orders." So luckily, this time the rumor was shot down before we had even first heard about it, which saved us a lot of energy and foaming at the mouth. Rampant speculation about Apple handhelds is fun, but frankly, it's also really draining. (It's the most exhausting activity one can engage in, next to soccer.)

We should probably start stocking up on Gatorade, though, because now that the iPod has proven that Apple in the Second Jobs Dynasty isn't opposed to the handheld form factor per se, we imagine that Apple PDA rumors are going to become fashionable again-- especially since the iPod itself reportedly runs a third-party operating system that was designed to handle PDA-based tasks. But if you want to avoid undue disappointment at future Stevenotes when an Apple-branded PDA fails to surface, it's important to keep in mind that last year, Phil Schiller flat-out stated that "there's nothing going on" regarding handheld development at Apple. And while Steve may have tried to buy both Palm and Handspring in the past, mere months ago he responded to an analyst's question about the PDA market by saying "I'm not sure that's the funnest place to be right now."

Heck, even the Steve Of The Future™ is downplaying the possibility of an Apple handheld. Faithful viewer kirabug dug up a Fortune interview which is mysteriously dated a week from this coming Monday, and in it Steve is quoted as saying, "You can't imagine how many people think we're crazy for not doing a Palm. I won't lie; we thought about that a lot. But I started asking myself, how useful are they, really? How many people at a given meeting show up with one?" So there you have it: expect more Apple "digital hub" devices, but don't expect one of them to be a PDA anytime soon. (That is, unless you feel like it.)

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An Andalusian Mac OS X (11/2/01)

[NOTE: After the production of this episode, CNET clued in and discovered that Apple doesn't let people buy one copy of Mac OS X and install it on a million machines for free, so the results have been changed to reflect a tie. Many thanx to faithful viewer Brian for the heads-up.]

During CNET's last two "OS Death Matches," we admit that we were a little flummoxed by the results. After all, CNET isn't exactly known to be the most Mac-friendly media group out there, so while we'd expect any sane and rational entity with an ounce of taste to rate Mac OS 9 over Corel Linux and Mac OS X over Windows 2000, let's just say that CNET surprised us with its final results. This time around, though, we've finally figured out what's going on: CNET's third OS Death Match (which pits Mac OS X against Windows XP) is strictly an exercise in surrealism and Dadaist incongruity. CNET championing Apple over Microsoft? Hello, Dalí!

Indeed, when faithful viewer Jef Van der Voort pointed us towards the great X vs. XP throwdown, we discovered that embracing the absurd was the only way to make sense of the results. Sure, there's a reasonable dose of rationality, such as the judges ruling Mac OS X the winner in the Installation round 6-0, but it's clearly just there as an artistic counterpoint to the bizarre and ridiculous; just when you think the judges are going to make sensible rulings, they turn around and unanimously declare Windows XP to have a better interface than Mac OS X. Sheer genius!

We won't spoil all the surprises, but there are a couple of twists we just have to mention. The first is no particular surprise: Mac OS X wins. While that's not exactly a plot twist given CNET's previous rulings in these head-to-head battles, it is still pretty incongruous considering CNET's long-recognized anti-Apple slant. But here's the really goofy bit: Mac OS X won on a tie-breaker-- and that tie-breaker was price. Yes, kiddies, by way of turning the old "Macs are more expensive" belief on its head, CNET actually rated an Apple product over the Wintel option because it was cheaper. How's that for a masterstroke of surrealism? (For additional weirdness points, it's worth noting that CNET apparently considers Mac OS X cheaper in part because it's easier to install illegal unlicensed copies; correct us if we're mistaken, but stating that Mac OS X is $129 per household and requires "no additional cost for more than one computer" is just plain wrong, isn't it?)

Anyway, this latest win is Apple's third in CNET's series of death matches-- fourth, if you include September's Apple vs. Microsoft tech support rumble, which was officially ruled a tie, but which Apple clearly won when the scores were totalled. Conspiracy theorists may detect a pattern, here-- Apple's victories are always very close calls, and CNET always provides a ton of caveats about how the contests are purely "entertainment," not actual product reviews or endorsements. So CNET gets a ton of traffic from beaming Mac users, while Microsoft apologists are assured that the results don't mean anything anyway. It's Controversy Lite™, and everyone lives happily ever after-- especially CNET's advertisers. The end.

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Settlement, Shmettlement (11/2/01)

The fat lady may not be singing, but she's definitely running through her vocal warmups right about now; according to a Reuters article, the Department of Justice has officially announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with Microsoft, thus marking the imminent end of the long-running "Redmond Justice" drama. Largely as rumored, the settlement lacks a certain degree of "oomph"; whereas Judge Jackson had ordered that the company be split in two (a penalty thrown out because Jackson liked to chit-chat with the press), the new Bush-era DoJ, despite having the upper hand with an incontestable ruling that Microsoft wielded and abused monopoly power, is apparently content to settle for handing the Redmond giant another lame-o consent decree. Because, you know, that one in 1995 worked so freakin' well.

The settlement reportedly requires that Microsoft allow computer manufacturers to load third-party software products on their systems without punishment-- so companies like Dell and Gateway are now free to ship their machines with Netscape installed now that nobody actually wants to use it anymore. We imagine that Netsca-- er, AOL employees are probably dancing with joy right now. Microsoft will also be forced to share its Windows programming interfaces with outside developers, and "offer uniform licensing terms to key computer makers." Ouch, how will the company ever rebound from such a crushing blow? According to an ABCNEWS article pointed out by faithful viewer Jeremy Boyd, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a statement calling the proposed deal a "strong, historic settlement, that will put an end to Microsoft's unlawful conduct"-- a statement that also doubled as a surprising revelation that the man is a closet crackhead. (Bill Gates reportedly called the settlement "fair and reasonable." If he did it without giggling, we'll admit some newfound respect for the man.)

The settlement still has to be approved by the judge, but we expect that won't be a problem. Getting the eighteen states involved with the case to sign on might be tougher; many of the attorneys general in on the suit have already expressed unhappiness (if not outright incredulity) with the proposed deal, and we won't be surprised if a fair number of them refuse to endorse the agreement by Tuesday's deadline. According to The Register, however, the DoJ "has already decided that the States won't be coming along, but that it should still cut its own deal and get the hell out of the kitchen." We never thought it possible, but we've finally encountered a sellout more egregious than Bungie's move to Redmond.

On the plus side, that implies that antitrust drama junkies like yourselves may get your fix for a while longer, in the form of whatever action the states choose to take after the DoJ rolls over and plays dead. And even if the states decide to bail as well, look at it this way; once the new consent decree is blatantly ignored by Microsoft just as the last one was, we can look forward to the whole process beginning anew in 2004 or so. Maybe the 2007 consent decree will finally get it right. Ya think?

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