TV-PGJuly 29, 2002: Ah, the emergence of illicit spy photos of unreleased Apple products; it finally truly feels like summer. Meanwhile, Apple teams up with Sun to bring StarOffice to Mac OS X (to Microsoft's potential chagrin), even as Apple applies to register the unlikely sobriquet "Junkyard" as a product trademark...
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Spy Photos, Take Three (7/29/02)

It never fails: every time we wind up going on an unannounced hiatus down here at the AtAT studios, some kind of big dramatic event unfolds and we miss out on all the fun. The next time things get slow in the Apple world, remind us to take off for a weeklong scooter tour of Trenton or something in a selfless bid to juice things up Mac-wise so at least the rest of you can frolic amid some new Apple-flavored melodrama. The latest juice, of course, isn't the .mac bait-and-switch price-gouging controversy (which is old news, despite the continuing amount of frothing about it) or even the wildly raging and intensely polarizing "is it '.mac' or '.Mac,' because even Apple can't seem to decide" debate, but rather last week's unholy leak of alleged photos and diagrams revealing all sorts of nifty details about next month's crop of spankin' new Power Macs. Mmmm, sacrilicious!

If any of you were somehow as preoccupied as we were last week and missed this particular barrel o' monkeys, apparently the song went a little something like this: a French Mac site called MacBidouille originally broke the news and posted a handful of images purported to be photos and drawings of various aspects of Apple's upcoming Power Mac update. Less than a day later, MacBidouille yanked the images, claiming that it had found itself on the business end of a cease-and-desist letter from one of Apple's multitudinous phalanxes of intellectual property lawyers. Mac OS Rumors then slogged through much the same post-get-threatened-and-yank cycle as MacBidouille experienced. Sound familiar? It should; this is pretty much the same routine we've seen with other pre-release Mac photos, such as the leaked Kihei images from back in '99 and last year's Quicksilver spy photos brouhaha.

If you missed 'em, apparently you didn't miss much. Assuming the photos aren't fakes, next month's Power Macs are going to look a fair amount like this month's Power Macs, at least in general form-- but with a more Snow-like color scheme, a front-mounted headphone jack, the speaker moved up top, four neat-looking vents toward the bottom, and some zesty bare-metal surfaces à la the Xserve's droolingly cool enclosure. Meanwhile, the back of the unit is peppered with so many holes it looks like it was ventilated with a twelve-gauge shotgun. Sounds like those greater-than-gigahertz processors might be throwing off more heat than a mug full of magma.

So are the new spy photos the real deal? We'll presumably know for sure in a couple of weeks' time, but until then, we're guessing "yeah baby"-- but not necessarily because the images ring true. We're inclined to believe they're real primarily due to the scrupulous cease-and-desisting of Apple's mouthpieces. Let's not forget that both the Kihei photos and the Quicksilver pics turned out to be genuine, implying strongly that the swift and sure-footed involvement of Apple Legal in situations such as this serves as a de facto certificate of authenticity. Heck, we were going to tell you that at least eWEEK still hosted the photos, thus providing at least some doubt as to whether Apple really moved to stamp out all public evidence of the pictures' existence, but they recently vanished from there, too. Ya snooze, ya lose.

Fear not, however; faithful viewer Eric Bigham kindly notes that as of broadcast time the photos are still up at The Synapse Project. Get 'em while they're still gracing this plane of existence. And we'll be plenty interested to see whether TSN manages to escape the attention of Apple's law-talkin' guys...

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Boasting Real Star-Quality (7/29/02)

Okay, so we're not exactly as rabidly up to speed on every little detail in the Mac universe as we once were. As it turns out, though, that's not necessarily a major handicap, because at least one plot thread has picked up almost exactly where we left off roughly a week and a half ago when we vanished from the public eye to tackle the daunting task of organizing our communal sock drawer. Remember back when Microsoft was bellyaching about low Office v.X sales and blaming Apple's crummy marketing of Mac OS X for the shortfall? At the time, we made the blindingly obvious observation (hey, that's what we're here for) that maybe, just maybe, more people would buy copies of Office v.X if they didn't cost five hundred frickin' dollars apiece. As if Office is so great, it's worth half a grand for the average iMac owner to trade up from AppleWorks? Yeesh. Personally, if we're talking about needing to part with that sort of level of cash, we'd almost rather restrict ourselves to SimpleText/TextEdit and Calculator, and blow the dough on pizzas instead. But that's just us. (Or is it?)

Fast-forward a week and a half, though, and suddenly we've got Think Secret reporting that Microsoft is, indeed, investigating the possibility of offering some new pricing schemes in hopes of attracting more Mac Office customers-- ones without trust funds, winning lottery tickets, or solid gold cars. Apparently Redmond is considering selling a "home edition" of Office sans PowerPoint for somewhere between $199 and $349, a "standard edition" like the one offered now for between $299 and $499, and a "professional version"-- which bundles in a couple of free downloadable apps and boasts a price of $449 to $599 just for giggles, since, as we all know, those professionals just love to part with the cabbage. Also under consideration are special crossgrade pricing for AppleWorks users and a wicked discount on Office for new Mac buyers: just $149, which actually strikes us as an actual bargain. (From Microsoft. Whodathunkit?) We'll see if any of this actually comes to pass.

In the meantime, though, we can't help wondering whether Microsoft's apparent openness to the concept of lower Office pricing has anything to do with the reports that Apple is now working with Sun on a Mac OS X port of StarOffice. Faithful viewer rhodiad tipped us off to the collaboration, recently described in a CNET article; both companies have reportedly confirmed that they're working towards getting a Java version of OpenOffice running on Mac OS X in six months' time, followed by a full-fledged commercial release of StarOffice sometime next year. For those unfamiliar with the name, StarOffice is an office suite that runs on Windows, Linux, and Solaris, boasts pretty decent compatibility with Office file formats, and bears the Sun name-- which carries a lot more weight in the world of Big Business than Apple's for the time being. Certain enterprise types who would no sooner consider a switch to AppleWorks than a voluntary poke in the eye might migrate to StarOffice because it's from Sun. So at least a few pundits seem to think that StarOffice-- and thusly an Apple-collaborative port of StarOffice for Mac OS X-- might actually be a threat to Microsoft's lock on the productivity software market. But then, that's what pundits are for.

Regardless of whether or not Uncle Bill is quaking in his boots over any of this, the prospect of a Mac OS X-native StarOffice is still pretty exciting-- especially to those of us Mac users who feel dirty all over at the very thought not just of using Microsoft products, but of paying through the nose for the degradation. (Great. Now we need a shower.) And if you're not pumped enough already, just chew on this comment made by Sun's senior director of desktop marketing solutions: "I don't want to sell StarOffice for OS X. I want Apple to bundle it. I'll give them the code. I'd love it if I could get the team at Apple to do joint development and they distribute it at no cost-- that it's their product. Nobody makes a product more beautiful on Apple than Apple." Holy toledo... an Apple-augmented StarOffice shipping free on each Mac? Maybe Microsoft is getting a little edgy about future Office sales. Jinkies.

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Call It A Soft-Sell Approach (7/29/02)

Now, this is the sort of thing we'd usually like to leave you with on a Friday so it could bake your noodle over the weekend and leave you nicely disoriented on Monday morning as you drag your puzzled butts back into the workforce, but seeing as we've been AWOL for the past couple of weeks, we're instead throwing it at you on a Monday night, in hopes that it might have at least a minimal effect on your job performance for the remainder of the work week. Hey, when it comes to lowering productivity and thereby contributing to the downfall of civilization as we know it, every little bit helps and better late than never and two or three other clichés that might conceivably apply in this situation yadda yadda yadda.

Without further ado, the noodle-baker. Try this: go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office's Trademark Electronic Search System. Click on "New User Form Search (Basic)." Enter APPLE JUNKYARD as the Search Term and choose "ALL" from the Field menu, then click "Submit Query." Bickety-bam, you're looking at Apple's July 12th application for the trademark "Junkyard," as was so astutely pointed out by MacRumors. So what you should be wondering right about now is, "just what sort of product does Apple have up its sleeve, and why in the name of all that's pure and good is Apple planning to market it under the name 'Junkyard'?"

Remember, this is a trademark we're talking about, here, not a code name. Apple's got some product in the works that somehow falls under the category of "goods and services: computer hardware; computer software; computer peripherals; instructional manuals packaged in association therewith" (vague much?) and the company is planning to take it to market with the actual, honest-to-goodness trademarked name of "Junkyard." Apple Junkyard™. Perhaps it's just us, but somehow that doesn't sound likely to inspire a groundswell of consumer confidence. What's next, Apple Cesspool™? Apple Industrial Waste Disposal Facility™? Apple Portable Chemical Toilet™? Why, the possibilities are staggering. Don't stagger too hard, though.

Caution: for the sake of the speculatory enjoyment of yourself and others, you should probably skip the obvious potential application of the trademark, which is that it's what Apple plans to call the "junk mail" feature of Mac OS X 10.2's improved Mail client to jazz it up a bit. Ignore, too, the fact that two other Jaguar features ("Rendezvous" and "Inkwell") show up in a trademark search under the exact same category as the "Junkyard" filing, thus lending credence to that drab and pedestrian explanation. Instead, just relax and imagine what sort of Apple product might carry the appellation of "Junkyard." Who says the digital hub doesn't need a shiny white-and-chrome FireWire-powered and auto-synchronizing garbage disposal? Certainly not us, buddy.

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