TV-PGSeptember 14, 2000: Just because Steve didn't make a big thing about it doesn't mean there's no new PowerBook for sale. Meanwhile, MacWEEK discovers that there is a market for Key Lime, and a photo of a mysterious fourth iBook color scheme surfaces in a Minnesota newspaper...
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A New PowerBook. Sorta. (9/14/00)

Whoops-- as usual, looks like we spoke a little too soon. Evidently there is a new PowerBook out there, but before you bust out the party hats and credit cards, we should probably warn you that it's not exactly what people were expecting. First of all, it's not a G4; it's not even a faster G3. It has the exact same enclosure as the previous model Pismo-- no Graphite-and-silver this time around. In fact, it's just like the Pismo in almost every way, because it is a Pismo, but with one fairly subtle improvement. As faithful viewer Nik Stanosheck points out, Apple's pro portable models each got a hefty boost in disk space; the PowerBook Zone reports that the entry-level 400 MHz model has been bumped from 6 GB to 10, while the all-the-fixin's 500 MHz beauty has had its storage pumped from 12 GB to 20. A 30 GB drive is also a build-to-order option at the Apple Store, provided you don't mind shelling out some extra cash.

Other than that, though, this is your father's PowerBook (provided, of course, that your dear ol' Pop happens to own a first-edition Pismo). Apple hasn't touched a thing other than the hard drive-- and the part number, which may explain all those stories about the original Pismo's SKU being marked as "discontinued" in various inventory systems. For those of you who had taken that as an irrefutable sign that Steve was about to trot out a PowerBook G4 with a spiffy new silver-and-translucent clamshell case, built-in stylus input, and 16x9 widescreen display, well, sorry your bubble got burst. But extra disk space is nice, right?

In fact, we have to assume that the only reason why the PowerBook got a storage boost was because "little brother" was acting up again. Check it out; the new iBook Special Edition includes a 466 MHz processor and a 10 GB hard drive, so it sure doesn't look good when Apple's "pro" model has only a 400 MHz G3 and a 6 GB drive-- but costs $700 more. Sure, the PowerBook's got a faster system bus, four times the cache, VGA video-out, PC card slots, and a slew of other cool features that the iBook lacks, but from a marketing perspective, it's probably kinda tough to persuade people to spend $700 more on a laptop with a slower processor clock speed and a much smaller drive.

But here's where marketing makes things tough; Apple can't boost the PowerBook chip speeds. Despite the fact that faster G3s are available, to the clock-speed-is-God public, Apple's top model PowerBook would then appear to be faster than the high-end desktop G4/500, which is a big fat no-no. Basically, as long as the G4 is stuck at 500 MHz, we're going to bet that Apple won't ship any G3-based system (such as the PowerBook) clocked any higher. So, a disk bump it is... and hopefully that'll be enough to keep PowerBook sales from falling through the floor until the PBG4 is ready, whenever the heck that turns out to be.

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A Hue In Search Of A Market (9/14/00)

Okay, we wanted to a wait a day to make sure we weren't the only ones who felt this way, but does anyone like Key Lime? Not the pie, you understand, but the new "special" color available for the iBook, which is less evocative of a citrus fruit than it is of a dill pickle plugged into house current. We've been wracking our brains trying to figure out just what Apple was thinking when it approved this particular hue for public consumption. Is there a vast, untapped market of fashion-backward blind people we don't know about? Because judging solely from the photos available at Apple's web site, we're guessing that most people who stare at the case of a Key Lime iBook for more than three minutes without wearing a welder's mask are going to suffer permanent injury.

We scoured the 'net looking for opinions. Most were overwhelmingly negative, such as MacMonkey's rant that Key Lime is "ugly," "bass-ackward," and a "fiasco." We've yet to find a single "In Defense of Key Lime" article; of course, the week isn't over yet. About the closest we came was an article which refers to the iBook's "great colors." While the author doesn't single out Key Lime, he does claim that he feels "the new colors are still creative and unique, but they aren't so toy-like and they have a pseudo-professional feel." Hmmm. Well, as AtAT's resident fact-checker and Goddess of Minutiae Katie points out, the reason no one's made a Key Lime toy yet is because it would scare small children. And if anyone knows a professional-- or even a pseudo-professional-- who'd be willing to walk into a meeting of his peers swinging a Key Lime iBook, we'd love to get an autograph before he winds up on an evening news story that ends with "...before turning the gun on himself."

So is Apple setting itself up for an inventory disaster, with warehouses of unsold Key Lime iBooks glowing away like so much toxic waste (and just as hard to get rid of)? Nope-- the execs aren't that dense. Remember, Key Lime is only available through the Apple Store; it's essentially a build-to-order option. So Apple can ship thousands of Indigo and Graphite iBooks into the channel knowing they'll sell like crazy, and when (or should we say "if"?) an order for a Key Lime unit comes through the system, all the employees will gather 'round, have a good, hearty laugh, fetch the dusty box of Key Lime enclosure parts from deep storage, strap on the welder's masks, and get to work. The end-user gets his or her Key Lime iBook, Apple gets to keep its inventory numbers nice and tight, and the assembly workers get a great story about a color-blind customer to tell their loved ones at the end of the day. Everybody's happy.

But wait a sec-- hold the phone. We've finally found out who Key Lime is for. An article in MacWEEK reporting from the Expo floor claims that "Parisians seem to be leaning toward Key Lime." One attendee is quoted as saying that "Americans like their black, stern PowerBooks; we, on the other hand, enjoy the playfulness." So there you have it, folks; Key Lime is a hit among the French. We'd throw in a reference to the genius of Jerry Lewis here, but let's just chalk it up to cultural differences, assume that Apple knows exactly what it's doing with this color situation, and see what happens.

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Don't Laugh-- It's Fashion (9/14/00)

So now everyone knows that Apple's got this new-fangled iBook, available in Indigo and Key Lime. And there's an iBook Special Edition, which comes in Graphite and-- again-- Key Lime. But how many of you knew that there's also an iBook Special Special Edition? Hey, you could have knocked us over with a feather, too, seeing as Uncle Steve seems to have completely forgotten to mention it during his keynote address. Maybe the flood had him a little stressed out or something, but for whatever reason, the press has been pretty quiet about this alternate model with a seriously daring color scheme. At least, most of the press...

Faithful viewer Drow forwarded us a link to an Associated Press article in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota, who somehow managed to scrounge up a photo of the mysterious Special Special Edition, which our sources say was code-named "Bruised Bumblebee." It differs from the standard Special Edition only in its striking color set: the cover is jet black, the highlights are a rich, creamy yellow, and the keyboard, trackpad, and palm rests are a deep, electric purple. It looks almost as if someone had, say, inverted the colors of an Indigo iBook. But that's Apple-- always fashion-forward.

Since Steve forgot to introduce it onstage in Paris, sources now say that the Special Special Edition will be held as a mid-season replacement just in case Key Lime's ratings suck. Most everyone in Apple's design department is in agreement that a black, yellow, and purple iBook would likely sell more briskly than one that's white and neon green. Keep your eyes peeled for this daring ensemble to hit the runways later this fall; meanwhile, check out the Star Tribune's photo ASAP, because you know how quickly Apple's lawyers can move...

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