TV-PGSeptember 19, 1999: It's official; Hiawatha Bray's recent Apple-friendly article was no fluke. Meanwhile, Phil Schiller shoots down rumors that Mac OS X might run on IBM's new CHRP-based PowerPC motherboard, and Microsoft gets busted footing the bill for ads from "independent observers" in support of the company...
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The Stepford Reporter (9/19/99)

Just one more example that assumptions can be dangerous: the reputation of the Boston Globe's own resident Mac-basher Hiawatha Bray extends far beyond the Beantown city limits, much to our surprise. As it turns out, we apparently didn't have to tell you folks who Mr. Bray is; his past columns seem to be well-known throughout the AtAT viewership, thanks to the Internet's role in the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. In other words, when Mr. Bray would put his anti-Apple prejudices into print, the online version of his diatribe would make the rounds faster than a Disney-Apple buyout rumor.

As for our confusion regarding Bray's recent glowing praise for the Apple-developed high-speed interconnect technology known as FireWire, many, many faithful AtAT viewers wrote in to further compound our befuddlement by pointing out yet another example of his recent Mac friendliness. Perhaps you saw Matthew Rothenberg's latest bit of commentary over on ZDNet? Mr. Rothenberg wonders, "What is it about current Macs that irritates some PC loyalists to deeply?" He goes on to examine the issue of industrial design, pointing out that PC folks scoff at Apple by claiming, as Bill Gates did, that Apple's only leadership these days is in the field of case colors. But if it's so simple to make a snazzy case, Rotherberg asks, how come all the PCs that try to look cool end up being "either (a) derivative or (b) hideous?" Overall, he presents Apple's industrial design in a positive light, indicating that the designers in Cupertino are the ones who actually get it right.

Now, the thing that sent AtAT viewers scurrying for the Feedback button was ZDNet's little "TalkBack" feature, which lets readers post their own responses to ZDNet articles. And who should have responded to Rothenberg's article but Hiawatha Bray himself? While his response takes a little jab at Apple's designs (he "loves" the new G4, but finds "most of their new products rather ugly"), his unsolicited public endorsement of our favorite computer company is rather shocking to those of us familiar with the Bray of old: "Apple really is cranking out superior technologies... most of the really clever new gimmicks appearing in computers are appearing on Macs first." Wow. We've got to sit down for a minute. Seeing longtime Mac-haters pull a 180° is nice, to be sure, but it's a little taxing on the system. We swear, one of these days John Dvorak's going to say he bought himself a Tangerine iBook and our heads will explode...

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So Much For MacCHRP (9/19/99)

So much for rumors about the resurgence of Mac cloning. Recently, IBM unveiled a new, free PowerPC motherboard design, based on CHRP-- the open reference design that originally promised to yield PPC systems that could run the Mac OS, Windows NT, Solaris, and a handful of other operating systems. CHRP, as you probably recall, essentially died a horrible screaming death as OS after OS dropped plans to support it, and eventually CHRP just turned into a way to open up the Mac cloning world; Mac OS on CHRP, by definition, wouldn't require the presence of a Mac hardware ROM, and so anybody who wanted to would have been able to build CHRP boxes and sell them as Mac-compatibles. In theory.

Of course, given how badly Apple was getting kicked around by the cloners they kept a leash on via the ROMs, the release of Mac OS for CHRP would most likely have been Apple's fastest option for committing suicide. Instead, CHRP was never supported by Apple, Steve killed the whole cloning operation, and today's Mac OS still requires the presence of a hardware ROM to boot. But with IBM's new CHRP board and the next-generation Mac OS X just around the corner, lots of people wondered if perhaps the ROM issue might be going away, giving CHRP a chance to rise from its own ashes.

Not so, claims Apple head marketing honcho Phil Schiller. Phil, Sancho Panza to Steve Jobs' Don Quixote, stated clearly at last week's Apple Expo that Mac OS X will in fact only run on "Apple hardware equipped with a G3 or G4 processor," according to a MacWEEK article; IBM's CHRP board is intended instead to appeal to box-makers interested in building a kick-butt Linux machine. So when Mac OS X comes out "early in 2000," nothing less than an honest-to-goodness iMac, iBook, Powerbook G3, or Power Mac G3 or G4 will do. Which means that folks like us who are still cranking along on Power Computing 604e iron had better start skipping lunch and saving pennies...

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Déjà Vu All Over Again (9/19/99)

You know how a funny joke just gets boring when you hear it over and over again? Well, for some reason, we just never get tired of hearing the one about the lawyer, the priest, and the weasel from Redmond walking into a bar. Well, okay, there's no priest and no bar, but the way Microsoft keeps getting caught exhibiting weasel-like behavior throughout the "Redmond Justice" case just keeps getting funnier. Faithful viewer and self-appointed "Redmond Justice" watchdog Jerry O'Neil kept us giggling by pointing out a CNET article about Microsoft's latest transgression: the company "secretly paid for newspaper ads by a California foundation that purported to present the independent views of 240 academic experts who said the U.S. government's antitrust case against the software giant was hurting consumers." (Now, if that ain't knee-slappin' funny, we don't know what is.)

If you didn't see the ads in question, they were huge full-page deals that appeared in both the New York Times and The Washington Post last June, back when both sides headed back to the courtroom for the final month of action-packed testimony. While the ads appeared to originate entirely from the Independent Institute of Oakland, California, the New York Times got hold of documents from an anonymous "Microsoft adversary" which showed that Microsoft paid over $150 grand to foot the bill for the ads and to fly David Theroux, the Independent Institute's president, to Washington for a press conference on the day the ads appeared. When confronted with the evidence, Microsoft spokesman Greg Shaw admitted that his company had paid for the ads.

It's a subtle twist on a prior Microsoft weasel move trying to garner public opinion-- remember when they placed ads that looked like independent letters to the editor in support of Microsoft, but were revealed to be written by Microsoft's own marketing department? At least this time the opinions really came from outside observers, although at least one of them feels that he should have been told who was paying the bills. Simon Hakin of Temple University claims he "would not have participated" if he had known that Microsoft was bankrolling the ads; "It's not right to use people as a vehicle for special interests." You'd think that a company with as much cash as Microsoft could afford to buy a little credibility. Oh, wait-- that's just what they were trying to do...

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