TV-PGSeptember 22, 1998: Sure, Steve Jobs is the undisputed savior of Apple these days-- but what was his involvement with Microsoft's victory in Apple's landmark copyright infringement suit? Meanwhile, the iMac continues to weave its hypnotic magic, now extending its sway into the Far East, and Symantec France sinks to a new low in questionable sales tactics...
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Checkered Past (9/22/98)

"Skeletons in the closet" is a time-honored plot device in the soap opera genre, so why wouldn't you expect it here? We all know that Steve Jobs was one of Apple's co-founders, who was ousted by John Sculley in the mid-eighties. We also know that he went on to form NeXT, which Apple (under Gil Amelio) later bought, which gave Steve his opening to step back in and take over again. But what we don't necessarily know is what kind of alliances he formed during his NeXT years, and what kind of dirt he's swept under the carpet now that he's taken back the reins at Apple. But secrets leak out...

Take, for example, the information gleaned from a reading of The Microsoft File by Wendy Goldman Rohm and posted to MacInTouch. Rohm's book apparently alleges that Steve Jobs was "of great help" to Microsoft in their legal battle against Apple when Apple sued them for copyright infringement. All but the greenest of Applephiles will recall the big "look and feel" case that dragged on for years; Apple sued Microsoft, claiming that Windows was such an obvious copy of the Macintosh user interface that it constituted a violation of copyright. Microsoft finally won the case in 1995. Had Apple won the suit, Windows might look substantially different today-- or Apple might have a lot more money in the bank.

There's no mention of exactly what Steve did to give Microsoft an edge over Apple in the suit, but it just shows that you don't want that guy on your bad side. It's impossible to say what Apple would be like if Jobs never left in the first place, but the Microsoft copyright case was pivotal. Oh, what might have been...

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Ancient Chinese Secret (9/22/98)

Unsurprisingly, the iMac's minty-fresh flavor isn't just appealing to the western palate. Early signs indicate that the Asian market will go similarly agog for what is probably the most-hyped computer in the history of the industry. First there was the iMac hoopla over in Japan, which is traditionally a solid market for Apple. When the iMac was released at the end of last month, the resulting buying frenzy prompted fourth-week August computer sales figures to spike sharply, says the Nikkei BP Group. Even though the iMac was sold only during the last two days of the week, it apparently contributed to a growth spurt of over 25% from the previous week in number of units sold.

China, meanwhile, has yet to receive the iMac, with the release date set for October 11th. But the buzz is building. According to the South China Morning Post, some dealers in Hong Kong have already racked up some pre-orders, and sales are expected to be "brisk" once demo models are available for customers to try out. And on the mainland, Apple is reportedly using the iMac as leverage to try to establish a standard for Chinese-language computing. If that comes together, the Asian Apple Store slated for opening next year might come in plenty handy.

After the introduction in China, the iMac will be unveiled in Taiwan and Korea towards the end of next month. Just another stop on the World Domination Tour '98. ;-)

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A Breakfast Parable (9/22/98)

Imagine that you want a Pop-Tart. I mean really want a Pop-Tart. Specifically, a Pop-Tart of the new "Frosted Triple-Chocolate Fudge Surprise" variety that you've seen in TV commercials for the better part of a month now, but which still hasn't hit the stores. (Don't you hate commercials for unreleased products? What a tease...) So then you're doing your weekly grocery shopping and you half-heartedly trudge your way down the cereal aisle, fully expecting to be disappointed again, when you spot it-- the box you've seen on TV and in your dreams so many times, sitting regally on the shelf, inviting, beckoning. And your heart skips a beat and dances a little jig because your Pop-Tart craving is nearly at an end. Yes, Frosted Triple-Chocolate Fudge Surprise Pop-Tarts are now available, come one, come all.

You abandon the rest of your groceries, grab the magical box, rush for the express lane checkout line, push past everyone waiting, throw ten dollars at the harried cashier while shouting "Keep the change!" and race to your car, your heart in your throat all the while. Once safely ensconced in the cocoon of your vehicle, you open the box, prepared to end a month-long craving, wishing you had a dash-mounted toaster. But there are no Pop-Tarts inside. Instead, there are six audio cassettes. Confused, you jam the first tape into your car's cassette player and listen. A soothing female voice thanks you for your patronage and apologizes that the new Frosted Triple-Chocolate Fudge Surprise Pop-Tarts are not yet ready for market. She then explains at length (over the course of five more tapes) the complex series of events that caused the delay. And the only other thing in the box is a voucher for you to send to the Kellogg's corporation, who will then send you your Pop-Tarts via U.S. Post once the FDA has cleared them, pending approval of the product's higher-than-normal caffeine content.

Sound bizarre? Well, replace "Pop-Tarts" with "Norton Utilities 4.0" and you've pretty much got the situation in France right now, according to MacFixit. Shrink-wrapped boxes of the latest version of that venerable disk repair utility were sold at several booths at Apple Expo 98 last week, but inside there was no CD-ROM. Instead there was a letter of apology, claiming there were last-minute bugs found with the French version of NUM 4.0, so Symantec decided "not to include the CD-ROM in the boxes." Bizarre, no? We find it hard to believe that a move like that isn't plainly illegal. Shame on Symantec for pulling a cheap moneygrubbing move, instead of delaying the shipment until the product was actually ready for release; then again, we've held a grudge ever since they bought out the excellent MacTools Pro and promptly discontinued it. Now if you'll excuse us, we're off to have a Pop-Tart. (And no, Kellogg's has done nothing wrong to the best of our knowledge, nor are they working on a Frosted Triple-Chocolate Fudge Surprise Pop-Tart, though the world might be a better place if they were.)

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