TV-PGNovember 9, 1999: Those who tuned in to watch Phil Schiller's QuickTime Live keynote were treated to a slew of new QuickTime developments-- and a bit of PG-13 slapstick. Oh, Phil... Meanwhile, a head-to-head real-world applications test shows that megahertz isn't everything, and Salomon Smith Barney downgrades Apple's stock, claiming that it's "overvalued"...
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Is This Thing On? (11/9/99)
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Well, as far as Apple-related speeches go, the QuickTime Live one was pretty far down there on the pre-event hype list. A presentation specially scheduled for the press and starring Steve Jobs would rate a 9 or 10, because it's got Steve and it's virtually guaranteed to be chock-full of new product announcements and other surprises. A Stevenote at a major Mac conference, on the other hand, might be an 8 or a 9, depending on the rumors swirling beforehand-- it's still got Steve, and new products are a pretty safe bet, but the conference itself would happen whether or not Apple had anything new to reveal, so there's always the slight risk of a snoozer. But the QuickTime Live keynote? That's maybe a 3 at best. QuickTime Live deals "only" with Apple's digital media architecture, so nobody could expect any new hardware. And instead of Steve, we got Phil Schiller, the Apple marketing guy whom we've branded as Steve's "keynote sidekick," AKA "Steve Lite." It just wasn't all that much to get excited about beforehand.

Which means that we didn't even bother to tune in to watch Phil's keynote, and as it turns out, it appears that we may have made a mistake. Judging by all the press releases Apple shot out after the event, things are really jumping in the world of QuickTime right now. First of all, Apple's enlisted yet more prime content providers for QuickTime TV, most notably CNN. Finally, web surfers at CNN.com's Videoselect page won't be faced with only RealVideo and Windows Media choices; QuickTime's there too, and ready to stream. And in addition to the "serious" content provided by CNN and the Financial Times, the more frivolous among you will rejoice with us as QTV also adds entertainment programming from MTV, Nickelodeon, and TV Land. There's also tv-radio.com, which brings with it "50 radio stations and five TV stations in France." (We know what some of you are thinking: "How many channels do the French need to watch Jerry Lewis movies and listen to accordion music?" Shame on you.) And of course there were also the technology previews of QuickTime 4.1 and Streaming Server 2.0. All in all, it sounds like Phil had good material and delivered it passably well.

Until the end, that is. See, what we really regret missing was the hilarity that ensued after Phil left the stage. Due to a technical glitch, there was no sound playing from the QuickTime movie on the monitors as people prepared to depart, and according to MacNN, apparently Phil made what can only be described as a rookie mistake: he left his microphone on when he got backstage. So instead of the soundtrack for the movie, the keynote audience was treated to Phil's frustrated mutterings of "Where's the sound?" Funny, right? And the situation worsened as Phil told the techs to start the movie over from the beginning, prompting him to utter "naughty words" that were audible to the entire audience. Leave it to Apple to drag out such a tired, old sitcom plot device like the "unintentional microphone" gag and still manage to make it entertaining. Though we strongly doubt that the "extra commentary" that Phil gave us will make it into the video-on-demand webcast of the event...


 
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Two Against One (11/9/99)
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You know, when it comes to relative computer speeds, it's tough to know whom to believe, especially when you're talking about cross-platform comparisons. On the one side you've got Apple's marketing department, making claims that sometimes seem a little shifty: yes, the G3 is "up to twice as fast as the fastest Pentium II"-- as long as you're looking at Bytemarks instead of real-world performance. On the other side there are equally suspicious "facts," like PC Magazine's recent results showing a 550 MHz Pentium III running "four to five times faster" than a 400 MHz G3 in web-rendering tests. And then there are differences in system and application software, hardware configurations, test suites, and the like. We admit it: we find it all more than a little confusing.

That's why we were so happy to stumble upon a head-to-head comparison at Bare Feats that pits a Power Macintosh G4/400 (the Yosemite motherboard version) against a Dell system running Windows NT on two 600 MHz Pentium III chips. Our loyalty to the Mac aside, we fully expected the G4 to get stomped pretty badly. After all, its competition is a dual-processor system built by a well-known manufacturer and running a modern operating system with all those happy buzzwords like "pre-emptive multitasking" and "symmetric multiprocessing" and stuff like that. The Mac, on the other hand, was forced into battle armed with only a single mid-range G4 chip and Mac OS 8.6. To try to even things out a bit, both systems were given 256 MB of RAM and identical Voodoo 3 3D graphics cards.

What do you know? In most tests, the results were very close. The Mac finished slightly ahead in Bryce 3D rendering. When it came to Photoshop, the Dell won hands-down in the Rotate test, the Mac won at Gaussian Blur, and it was almost a dead heat for the Motion Blur race. And for 3D games performance, the Mac had better frame rates in Unreal, while the Dell was a bit faster in Quake 2. The thing to remember, here, though, is that the Mac's single 400 MHz chip was more than holding its own against two 600 MHz Pentiums-- and the Mac actually cost over $2000 less than the Dell. Now that's price/performance. We can't wait to see what happens when Apple ships dual-G4 systems running Mac OS X; in a "fair fight," the Dell would likely get creamed.


 
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Downgrade THIS, Buddy (11/9/99)
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Leave it to one of those snooty analysts to spoil the party. "Let's see," said a number-cruncher at Salomon Smith Barney. "Apple's completely refreshed all four quadrants of its product line in only six months. The company's been profitable for two full years, consistently beating expectations. The Taiwan quake and G4 availability problems were stumbling blocks, but both issues have now largely been resolved. Apple's got a ton of cash on hand, the best inventory numbers in the business, and the hottest consumer products available-- all right at the start of the holiday buying season. So let's downgrade their stock."

Yup, that's right; faithful viewer Vince Briones was the first to break the bad news, which you can read in full in a Mac Observer article. Salomon Smith Barney has lowered their rating on AAPL to "Outperform" from "Buy," claiming that the stock is now doing much better than it should be. Now, granted, AAPL's recent performance has been phenomenal, but so has Apple's. And when you consider the prices of other computer manufacturers' stock, AAPL is still vastly undervalued in any relative sense, especially considering future growth possibilities.

But then, you know our pet theory about those analysts. We just think they're miffed at Apple for continually beating their estimates. So Salomon Smith Barney downgraded AAPL, resulting in a quick drop of six or seven points-- in the long run, it's not a big deal, and if it gives the analysts a little power thrill, hey, who are we to stand in their way? After all, it's just another "buying opportunity," and when Apple really brings out the big guns next year (Mac OS X, multiprocessing systems, etc.), the analysts will be forced to upgrade or be left in the dust. So we'll see who's laughing then...


 
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