TV-PGAugust 16, 2001: Motorola's slide continues, as the company announces plans to close another two semiconductor plants. Meanwhile, struggling Be finally found a buyer in nearly-as-struggling Palm, and Apple posts a developer build of Mac OS X 10.1 on its servers-- but not for long...
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Ready To Close Up Shop(s) (8/16/01)

In this Age of the Deteriorated Attention Span, we're guessing that not many of you may recall a simpler time way back when Motorola's financial troubles constituted an actual plot twist on this show, instead of the status quo. Sad to say, then, only those of you with severe long-term memory disorders are likely to find anything even remotely surprising about the latest chapter in Motorola's ongoing tale of woe. Still, given the company's continued role as the maker of the G4 in Apple's pro Macs, we find ourselves compelled to beat this issue to death. Sorry about that. But then, predictability aside, financial strife is always at least a little entertaining, yes?

That said, here's the latest crybaby stuff, courtesy of faithful viewer Stuart Janney: according to a Reuters article, Motorola now plans to close two more of its semiconductor plants over the course of the next couple of years. We already knew that Motorola's chip business hasn't been doing so hot of late (it lost $381 million last quarter), but you mightn't have known that the company "has closed five chip plants in the last four years" and "was already phasing out another two facilities." Nine announced plant shutdowns in four years? Boy howdy, that's a lot of shrinkage.

On the plus side, these two latest plant closures apparently aren't going to translate into a ton of layoffs, as "most" of the 1200 employees working at those facilities "will be transferred to other Phoenix-area plants." Nevertheless, the company expects at least "some job losses" from the closures, thus pushing Motorola's layoff count past the 30,000 mark. Yes, that number is correct: a three and four zeroes. That's how many pink slips Motorola projected that it would be handing out by the end of this year (24,000 have already been served), not including any losses from these two latest plant closures. (We can only assume that in an economy like this, whoever's making the pink slips is getting rich, rich, rich.)

We're guessing that this might spark yet another round of analysts begging Motorola to spin off or sell its chipmaking arm for the good of the corporation, but so far, Motorola has been unwavering in its assertion that cranking out semiconductors is one of its "core businesses." Personally, we don't care much one way or the other, just as long as Apple gets enough G4s (and eventually, G5s) to satisfy demand. But for those of you still harboring secret hopes that Motorola might eventually sell its chip business to Apple, a thirty-month plant closure schedule doesn't sound like the move of a company preparing to put out a "FOR SALE" sign. Still, hope springs eternal, right?

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Big Fish Eat The Little Fish (8/16/01)

Speaking of corporate purchases, we've got one that's nearly a done deal, and man, it's a doozy. Faithful viewer The M@d H@tter was the first of dozens of AtAT fans breathlessly noting that beleaguered Be has finally found a buyer-- and it just happens to be beleaguered Palm. That's right, according to a CNET article, Palm is ready to turn over $11 million worth of its chronically depressed stock in exchange for Be's "assets and intellectual property." Whodathunkit?

"But AtAT," you so ignorantly ask, "how could Palm buying Be have even the slightest relevance to Apple?" Patience, grasshopper: you must apply the lessons of history. Perhaps you're too young to recall those dark days of 1996 and the Amelio Era; Apple had spent years developing Copland, its then-most-recent attempt to bring the Mac OS into the modern age. Copland boasted many of the features and buzzwords crucial to any modern operating system, but there was just one teensy little problem: it didn't actually work. Eventually Apple was forced to kill the project and go shopping outside for someone else's modern operating system in hopes of catching up.

At the time, ex-Apple dude Jean-Louis Gassée's Be looked like the likeliest match; the fledgling BeOS was modern to the core, built for high-bandwidth multimedia applications, and already ran on Mac hardware. A few trigger-happy media outlets afflicted with "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN" syndrome went so far as to report that the ink was already drying on the contracts and we'd all be running BeOS-derived Macs within a few years. What really happened, of course, was that Apple passed on Be's $200-something million offer (just for the OS rights, we believe) and dropped $400 million on Steve Jobs's NeXT company instead. The rest is history.

As for the Apple-Palm connection, well, even you young'uns should recall that Steve admitted to trying to buy Palm in its pre-IPO days back in '98. At the time, 3Com wasn't selling. Of course, these days Palm is public-- and its market cap is a relatively modest $2.27 billion, meaning that Apple could pretty much buy the company outright tomorrow and pay cash for it. And if Steve waits until Be's shareholders approve the buyout by Palm, Apple could pick up two companies it once wanted in one fell swoop; between owning a huge chunk of the PDA market and an operating system that'll make a handy core for a new handheld operating system, who could pass up a deal like that? Why, we bet Steve's reaching for his checkbook even as we speak...

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One Big Mother Download (8/16/01)

If you're a Mac OS X user who has been drooling nonstop ever since Steve took us on a test drive of next month's 10.1 release at the Expo, there are a couple of things we recommend that you do. The first is to get a mop, because you're making a really gross mess with that four weeks of saliva on the floor. The second is to mosey on over to Mac OS Rumors, which has a mini-report on the two latest developer builds of the "Puma" Mac OS X release that has you so glandularly overstimulated.

MOSR's report on builds 5G15 and 5G24 ought to provide a Puma fix for those of you who otherwise mightn't have survived until next month. From our perspective, though, the most interesting stuff there isn't the screenshot of the DVD player application, the mention of "built-in RAID disk array creation support" in the new version of Disk Utility, or even the claim of "a roughly threefold perceived speed boost overall" compared to 10.0.4; instead, we zeroed in on the fact that Apple had posted a downloadable version of 5G15 on its developer seed servers yesterday-- and then pulled it down again shortly thereafter "due to high demand." In other words, Apple's servers were getting pummelled into oblivion by registered developers all trying to download 10.1 at once.

Now, ever since it was made clear to us that, when it's released, 10.1 will only be available on CD-ROM for $19.95 "shipping and handling," we've been a little down on Apple for not planning to post a downloadable version of the update. Now we understand Apple's reasoning; reportedly, that developer build download consisted of a 450 MB disk image. Evidently developers had to download the entire image, then burn it to a blank CD-R, and then boot from the resulting CD and install. Zoinks! Download size and Apple's bandwidth bill aside, if the final version of 10.1 is going to require installation off a bootable CD, we can definitely understand the company's hesitation in offering a download option. It's one thing for a developer to download and burn an installer, but Mac OS X is, at heart, a consumer OS-- imagine the tech support calls from people who burn the disk image incorrectly, or wind up with a corrupted download. Not fun.

Apparently the developer download will be back once Apple configures some servers that can handle the throughput; developers are also getting the update in the mail. Meanwhile, next month we'll still be forking over twenty smackers for the update, but at least we won't be quite as grumpy when we sign the check. Hey, Apple-- if you're out there, may we make a suggestion? How about giving away the update for free to customers lucky enough to be able to bring their original Mac OS X CD into any Apple retail store? If that's not feasible for some reason, no worries; we'll just get our money back by drinking $20 worth of free Evian at the Genius Bar, instead.

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