TV-PGOctober 6, 1999: iMacs are just $599 with CompuServe strings attached, while prepares to give away a million "free" iMacs as well. Meanwhile, another longtime Mac critic publicly ponders switching to an iMac due to Windows-induced trauma, and Microsoft's dirty little secret comes to light: their annual report was written on a Mac...
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Strings For Everyone (10/6/99)

So Apple's finally got a sub-$1000 home computer: the new iMac, available now (for our viewers who aren't fluent in Jobsian, that means "in three weeks or so") for just $999. In fact, if you're the type that thrives on marketingspeak, you could even call the iMac a $599 computer; as noted by Jobs at Tuesday's unveiling and in an Apple press release, customers who buy an iMac at CompUSA or J & R ComputerWorld can sign up for three years of CompuServe Internet service get a $400 rebate. This marks the iMac's entry into the wonderful world of "Cheap Computers With Strings Attached." In fact, this particular rebate deal was already in effect for buyers of PCs made by IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, and eMachines.

As for that inevitable extension of the whole "Cheap Computer" concept known as the "Free PC," well, the iMac's slated to go there, too, but it's just taking a little while. Perhaps you recall, the outfit who wants to "give away" a million iMacs to consumers who fit their "profile." The last we'd heard from them was a late-August interview published in About This Particular Macintosh, in which FreeMac's Business Development Officer Chuck Fox revealed that seed capital had been secured, and the company expected to start letting people apply for a free iMac by the middle of September. Well, September came and went, and FreeMac's web site still hasn't changed.

But keep your hat on, because MacCentral now reports that FreeMac is almost ready to go. The company's CEO, Jonathan Strum, recently contacted at least some of the half-million people who requested more information, indicating that FreeMac is in the "final stages of product distribution" and that sign-ups will start "soon." Hey, we're just glad that FreeMac didn't vanish off the face of the planet, like a previous "free iMac" venture did. So whether you want your iMac now and "Cheap" or later and "Free," it sounds like there will be enough iMacs-with-strings-attached for everyone. We don't mean to put a damper on anything; our only advice is that, before you commit to anything, you make sure the strings are ones you can live with, and are worth the money you'll save. We're sure that there are lots of people for whom the strings will be completely and totally worth it; we just don't want anyone to have any regrets, okay?

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All Signs Point To Yes (10/6/99)

Oh, sure, you may laugh at the scary-looking folks who wander around downtown carrying signs that say "The End Is Nigh." Heck, we laugh at them too, because who says "nigh" anymore? But we're no longer convinced that the whole world-is-gonna-end-on-January-1st-2000 fad is such a crazy idea anymore. All the signs are pointing to some sort of cataclysmic event coming soon. First of all, lots of the end-is-near crowd point to the recent rash of nasty earthquakes as a sign. To us, a bigger indication of the coming apocalypse is that it's already October of 1999, and against all probability, we haven't been inundated with inescapable playings of that old Prince song. And freakiest of all, longtime Mac-bashing Windows-using journalists are saying good things about the Mac. Sort of.

We were suspicious enough when the Boston Globe's Hiawatha Bray not only recanted his way-off prediction that the iMac would fail. We got a bit more nervous when he revealed that he actually used one on a regular basis. But things got downright scary when he recently praised FireWire and the Power Mac G4 to the skies, and went so far as to volunteer Mac-defending rebuttals to other columns as you saw here last month. Yeah, he still has lots of bad things to say about Apple and the Mac platform, but the degree to which he acknowledged the Mac's strong points was downright ominous.

At first we tried to comfort ourselves with the idea that Mr. Bray's new Mac-friendliness was simply a fluke, but then we came across Jesse Berst's new article, "Think Different? Why Jesse Wants an iMac." As Jesse himself admits, he's a "Windows user since the early days, founder of Windows Watcher newsletter, columnist for Windows Sources magazine and longtime Apple skeptic." Yet, despite the fact that he still doesn't "like Apple products very much," he's considering switching to an iMac because of all the ridiculous Windows-induced nightmares he's got to endure. Is the end of the world near? You'll have to decide for yourself, but we're not planning on starting any long novels... (By the way, if you read the Berst article, you may want to vote in the Quick Poll; at last check, most respondents said, yes, Jesse should switch to an iMac.)

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Get Your Irony Here (10/6/99)

There's something that's just really gratifying about instances in which Apple's competitors are discovered to have used Apple products in the course of company business. Usually it's little things that are perfectly understandable, like finding that the animated GIFs on Microsoft's web site were created with GIFmaker, a Mac-only utility. (It didn't take Microsoft long to pull those graphics once word got out, believe us.) Since Macs are used heavily in graphic design and advertising, it's perfectly understandable that Microsoft would hire a Mac-using third party for the preparation of their marketing materials. Heck, it's even reasonable to think that Microsoft's own in-house marketing folks would be allowed to eschew Windows in favor of a platform that lets them get their work done properly.

But as faithful viewer Rob Vestrum points out, Microsoft's Windows empire may be showing signs of collapse from within. A MacInTouch special report notes something verrrry interesting (and highly amusing) about Microsoft's annual report, which was posted publicly to the company's web site: it was written on a Mac. Perhaps you recall the uproar from several months back, when it was discovered that Microsoft Word 98 documents often contain a lot more than just what was written-- they can contain a unique ID traceable to a particular computer (which is how the author of the infamous "Melissa" virus got caught), and even snippets of private data from other unrelated files. In this case, though, the type of data hidden in the Microsoft annual report isn't even terribly controversial: it's a revision history of the document, complete with file paths. But that data makes it clear that the whole report was written using "Word 98 for Macintosh" on a Mac with a hard disk named "Kerry Leimer Jay's G3."

Now, Microsoft using Macs for graphics work is one thing, but to run Word? Surely they could have used Windows for that. If Microsoft's now using Macs for tasks as mundane as basic office productivity, then that doesn't say much about Windows. Or, rather, it says a lot about Windows. ;-)

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