TV-PGMay 22, 2000: The RDF breaks down in written form-- Mac OS X is delayed, no doubt about it. Meanwhile, Mac The Knife gets reincarnated as the Naked Mole Rat (maybe), and Microsoft tries a new and side-splittingly funny tack in its bid not to be broken up...
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Interests of Science (5/22/00)
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Before the event, there was plenty of speculation as to why Apple broke with tradition this year and opted not to offer a public webcast of Steve's WWDC keynote address; after the event, most of us just assumed it was because there wasn't a whole lot of good news that Apple would have wanted to spread. New hardware announcements were conspicuously absent, and WWDC brought forth neither the "fringe" rumor fodder like the Apple handheld nor the more widely expected introduction of a multiprocessor G4 system. (The MP tech demo doesn't count.) Worse still was the announcement that Mac OS X was being, er, "renamed," and therefore the version we'd all see this summer would not be a shrinkwrapped 1.0 release, but rather a public beta instead. Why make it easier for the media to spin its doom-and-gloom stories by providing them with a webcast?

However, it's since become clear to us that Apple's real interest in withholding a webcast from the keynote was merely one of scientific inquiry. Sources report that Apple's tippy-top secret Reality Distortion Field Lab continues to study Steve's uncanny ability to bend minds to his will, and the WWDC keynote was little more than the latest in a series of experiments to test the field's effectiveness when diluted through various delivery media. Stolen lab results reveal that the potency of Steve's RDF rates highest in face-to-face scenarios in which test subjects are within fifteen feet of Steve himself and hear his voice without electronic amplification. Only slightly less effective are situations in which Steve addresses a large crowd with a microphone, as anyone who's attended a live Stevenote can confirm. Interestingly, over the course of the past couple of years, the RDF Lab has confirmed that satellite broadcasts of the same events retain a stunning 96% of their spin index; webcasts, 93%. This time around, the Lab decided to measure the RDF drop-off when Steve's words were delivered via a textual medium-- hence, no webcast. Instead, as noted by faithful viewer Alan Carr, Apple's posted a summary of the speech, complete with actual transcribed quotes from the man himself.

The results, unfortunately, were not encouraging. While the final data have yet to be tabulated, initial qualitative analysis reveals that most of the RDF energy infused by Steve did not survive the transcription process; current estimates place the RDF retention level at approximately the 15% level. An empirical confirmation that web transcripts are a poor conductor of RDF energy is the recent article in The Register discussing Mac OS X's "lateness." Whereas Steve had used a massive RDF burst to claim that Mac OS X was simply being "renamed," The Register homed in on exact quotations in Apple's transcript to prove otherwise. Back in January Apple stated that Mac OS X would be "pre-loaded as the standard operating system on all Macintosh computers beginning in early 2001"; at WWDC Steve tried to claim that that schedule hadn't changed, but without the benefit of a live RDF, his statement that Apple would ship Mac OS X 1.0 "with pre-loading options in January" raises some red flags, since few people would miss the distinction between "standard" and "options" without live RDF waves pumping through their skulls.

Looking on the bright side, when presented with the final results of this unsuccessful experiment, we have little doubt that Apple will webcast all Stevenotes from now on. The shellacking that Apple's stock price has been taking recently is an unfortunate side effect of the experiment that we assume Apple will be striving to avoid in the future...


 
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Sincerest Form of Flattery (5/22/00)
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We just don't know. Many, many of you have written in to tell us about Mac The Knife's apparent reincarnation, but we can't help harboring a few doubts. The Knife, as you're probably aware, has been missing in action from his MacWEEK post lo these many moons, leading some to suggest that the edged implement had finally overdosed-- and others to wonder at the staggering amount of narcotic substance necessary to cause an overdose in that walking bundle of toxic tolerances. Suddenly, though, a remarkably Knife-like entity surfaced at MacEdition, though we still haven't made up our minds about his authenticity. We appear to be squarely in the minority with our second-guessing, but hey, that's us-- toss us a third-hand rumor about the Apple handheld and we're slobbering all over it, but show us an allegedly resurrected rumormonger in a new guise and suddenly we're Suspicious Aloysius. We're funny that way.

Oh, sure, at first glance the inaugural column by the "Naked Mole Rat" is more than a little familiar; even the title, "Careful With That Pickaxe, Eugene!" has the Knife written all over it. But it's almost a little too perfect, isn't it? The offhanded references to unconventional substance abuse (nitrous oxide and "mulled Sterno"), the incorporation of a Velvet Underground song ("Lady Godiva's Operation"), the predilection for nonsensical outbursts peppered with exclamation points ("Thank Hephaestus for the loose, comfortable fit of today's spelunking shorts!"), the baffling pop culture references complete with offsite links... it's all there. And we mean all there. In fact, it's too Knife to be Knife, if you know what we mean. It's as if someone built a Turing machine and spilled absinthe and cough syrup all over the keyboard. Heck, even the offer to send "a zaftig pink mole rat" to dirt-dishers (in place of the old Knife mug) sounds just a little too perfect. And what's with that email address? "thegayblade@macedition.com"? Oh, please.

If this is the Knife, then his reincarnation lacks even what little subtlety he possessed at MacWEEK. If it isn't, then we give the imitator props for capturing the Knife's essence a little too well. (We suppose we could always ask, but where's the fun in that?) In any event, the Rat's got some dirt on the next PowerBook's polycarbonate chassis, its G4-or-700-MHz-G3 identity crisis, and what IBM's latest fling with embedded RISC processors might mean to Apple. So if he isn't the Knife, hey, who's complaining?


 
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But You Promised! (5/22/00)
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There are many joys to be derived from "Redmond Justice": the intense courtroom drama, the laughable antics of Microsoft's bumbling legal team, the bracing energy of Judge Jackson's foul temper... the list is endless. One of our favorite things about the show, though, is the way that occasionally the producers break from their published schedule and broadcast a surprise episode, much to the delight of the fans. We received just such a happy little offering on Monday, in the form of an "unexpected court filing" two days before the next regularly scheduled broadcast; is this a great show, or what?

Faithful viewer Barry Hamill was the first to point out the surprise broadcast, in the form of a Reuters article. It seems that Microsoft is still wriggling with anxiety over its potential corporate breakup; in a baldfaced attempt to sway the judge prior to the official remedy hearings scheduled to start on Wednesday, Microsoft argues that the U.S. government had already ruled out a Microsoft breakup in a separate antitrust scuffle five years ago, and therefore shouldn't be trying to push one now: in 1995, "the government [had] already admitted that the breakup of Microsoft would be 'dangerous to the economy's welfare' and 'against the public interest.'" Microsoft's legal team evidently feels that a governmental decision made before the company had even committed the crimes for which it is about to be punished is binding unto eternity. (For those of you unversed in U.S. legal procedure, this is a subtle variation on a rarely-used maneuver known as the "No Tag-Backs" defense.)

It's awfully kind of Microsoft to provide a bit of comic relief before the gritty, knock-down, drag-out, limbs-torn-asunder hearings that'll commence on Wednesday. In addition, it's rather charming that the company's lawyers expect the judge to think that anything decided five years ago must necessarily apply today. In particular, we find it quaint that Microsoft's lawyers don't see the inherent danger in basically saying, "hey, when we got busted for antitrust violations five years ago, you didn't break us up-- just because we've been busted for committing the same exact kind of crimes again, how come a break-up is your solution now?" Those guys... always making us chortle.

The government, after wiping the tears of mirth from its eyes, responded in the predictable manner: "That Microsoft repeatedly broke the law after those statements were made demonstrates why only structural relief can prevent Microsoft from violating the antitrust laws in the future." We see only two possibilities here: either Microsoft's lawyers are criminally stupid, or this was a cunning plan to disable the opposition with paroxysms of paralyzing laughter. Will the government recover sufficiently from its fits of hysteria in time to state its case on Wednesday?


 
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