TV-PGJuly 31, 2000: Irony of ironies: Apple's lawyers may soon be defending the company against a lawsuit from the maker of the Qube. Meanwhile, the MIA Sage commercial quietly reappears as if nothing happened, and rumors swirl of a new iBook arriving in time for fall...
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Fun With Regular Polyhedra (7/31/00)

Gosh, it's almost too much irony for a bleary-eyed Monday morning. (As if.) Remember all those iMac wannabes that copied the distinctive shape, style, and colors of Apple's smash hit consumer system? Remember how Apple's legal team swatted them down like just so many flies in a cheap diner? Felt good, right? Well, check this out: Apple's newest marvel of distinctive industrial design, the Power Mac G4 Cube, may soon be the target of a copyright infringement lawsuit from another company who claims it got there first. No fooling! Faithful viewer Jay Forde was the first to point out that our buddies at nabbed the scoop.

See, there's a company out there called Cobalt Networks, and it's got its own cube-- or, rather, its own Qube, which was released two years before Apple's latest artbox. Specifically, it's a seven-inch blue cube that runs Linux and is marketed as a dead-simple Internet server. How simple? So simple that it also beat Apple to the "no keyboard, no mouse" initiative that looms ominously in the Mac community's future-- but that's a whole different lawsuit on the horizon. For now, Cobalt's content to make rumblings about suing Apple because the Cube is too much like the Qube. "We will not sit idly by," said Steven DeWitt, Cobalt's CEO. "This is far too good an opportunity for us to grab lots of free publicity by piggybacking on all the press Apple's Cube is garnering." [Ed. note: It's possible that our sources got that last quote wrong.]

And who can blame Cobalt? It's obvious that Apple's just trying to fool potential Qube buyers into accidentally buying a Cube instead-- the two are almost identical, after all, as the photos in this CNET article prove. We're dead certain your average customer in the market for a Linux-based Internet server appliance couldn't tell them apart without a magnifying glass and detailed product literature. Plus, the Qube was first! Never mind that the Power Mac Cube isn't blue, is targeted at a completely different market, and actually comes with a keyboard, a mouse, expansion ports, and the ability to hook up a display-- it's a cube, dammit, and therefore a violation. In fact, we're so absolutely sure that Cobalt has an airtight patent on the shape otherwise known as the regular hexahedron, we didn't even bother looking it up. Apple might have had a snowball's chance in a blast furnace of winning this (potential) case had it, or some company that it had purchased, come out with a cubic computer a full ten years before Cobalt's offering... but unfortunately, Steve Jobs clearly lacked vision in this regard.

We've heard that Apple has recently contacted customers who pre-ordered a Cube to announce an additional three-week delay in shipping the goods; our sources report that Apple is using the extra time to pop the Cube's guts into a decahedral enclosure instead. Okay, sure, it's not a Platonic solid, but Steve hopes the ten sides will fit in with the whole Mac OS X concept. Besides, it's just a stopgap measure until Apple's lab gnomes figure out how to ship a four-dimensional hypercube...

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It's Not Easy Being Seen (7/31/00)

Now you see it, now you don't-- but wait a few days, and hey presto: the absent one returns, none the worse for wear. Stupid magic trick? Well, sort of; we're talking about the vanishing act that Apple pulled with its Sage commercial last week. The Sage one mysteriously disappeared from Apple's page of iMac ads, while the Indigo, Ruby, and Snow commercials all stood around and acted like nothing was amiss. Kermit-the-Frog-loving Mac fans the world over flocked to the MacTeens server, which graciously hosted an illicit copy of the Sage ad in QuickTime for those jonesing for a dose of "It's Not Easy Being Green."

But call off the search party; as faithful viewer Elliot was first to note, the Sage ad is now back at Apple's site, in all its muted green glory. Once again, the other hues on the page are pretending that nothing happened, and if the Pro Mouse saw anything out of the ordinary, it's keeping its yap shut. Yup, Sage was taken and then returned, apparently unchanged; those of us who figured that licensing issues with the Kermit song may have prompted Apple to replace it with a different ditty turned out to be quite wrong. So what did change, then? And why was the Sage ad taken in the first place? (Someone whistle the X-Files theme and then check the back of the ad's neck for an alien chip implant.)

Most likely there were issues to be resolved with Apple's use of Kermie's song (Steve seems fond of using others' intellectual property before securing the rights), but happily, an agreement would appear to have been hammered out. And so, everyone's favorite frog once again stands shoulder-to-shoulder (or, at least, shoulder-to-knee) with Elvis, Clapton, Dion, and Steppenwolf as they herald the coming of the iMac's fall line. Don't you just love happy endings?

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The New Fall Line-Up (7/31/00)

Whoops, here we go again: the exact kind of rumor that always prompts a zillion opinion articles about how the Mac rumor sites hurt Apple for the sake of advertising revenue, followed by a kajillion counterpoint rebuttals arguing that the consumer has a right to know. AppleInsider's back in the thick of things, as the no-holds-barred site broaches the subject of the next iBook revision. The new laptops, code-named "Midway," will sport the same Fisher-Price-meets-Hello-Kitty clamshell enclosure we've seen for the past year, but will supposedly pack faster G3 chips, better ATI graphics circuitry with double the video RAM, and an "aggressive" new price. Furthermore, the higher-end Special Edition model will allegedly sprout a FireWire port and a DVD-ROM drive. But that's not all: prepare for new hues, which we imagine will mirror the new iMac's slightly more muted tones.

So what's the problem, you ask? Here's the problem, at least as the anti-rumor brigade sees it: people who were just about to go out and buy an iBook may now be far more likely to hang onto their cash until these enhanced models (supposedly) ship in September. And that's a reasonable concern; any of those potential buyers who could wait a couple of months in hopes of getting more and paying less may well do just that. Heck, a sizeable subset of those potential customers probably feels that "Tangerine or Blueberry" represents the worst "lesser of two evils" choice since the last Presidential election, and would be willing to wait two months just to see if Apple ships an iBook that doesn't look like it escaped from the Planet of the Black Light. Those delayed purchases translate into lost revenue for Apple-- and it's even worse if the rumors aren't even true.

So, while we're certainly not going to avoid mentioning AppleInsider's latest rumors (pretty much everyone that tunes in here would have found them anyway), we would like to say this: the AtAT staff bought a first-generation iBook soon after they entered the channel. We've gotten a ton of use out of it, and it's the best investment we've ever made in a portable. Whether we're surfing wirelessly while reclining on the couch, producing AtAT on the road, or playing PlayStation games at 30,000 feet via the wonder of Virtual Game Station, we're constantly amazed at how cool this thing is. A few months ago, Apple upped the RAM and disk size on the iBook while keeping the price the same. Do we wish we had waited until the revision shipped? Not on your life-- we'd have missed out on months of work and fun. Did the revision change our iBook in any way? Of course not; it's the same lovable little blue guy we bought last November. It still does what it did. It still does what we bought it to do. So our advice is this: buy what you need when you need it. Eventually you have to ignore the rumors and bite the bullet. If you keep waiting for the next revision, you'll never have any fun. And fun is what it's all about.

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