TV-PGNovember 30, 1999: Apple's happy romp with Wall Street reaches new plateaus. Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Gateway's having some trouble with its iMac-inspired all-in-one systems, and a serious Mac addict risks life and sanity by creating the world's first 21" iMac...
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Nearing "Volcano Love" (11/30/99)

Wall Street's new-found love affair with Apple continues unabated. Even though we at AtAT aren't investors, we habitually check in with Apple's stock price throughout the day, since that's the official coin-operated Love Meter of Apple's relationship with the finance community. A couple of years ago Apple bottomed out at just under $13-- definitely "Cold Fish" territory. Ever since then, though, the passion's been building; Apple's rating has steadily grown with its share price and has officially just entered the "Casanova" range. For the first time ever, on Tuesday AAPL broke $100 a share, reaching a peak of $103.75 before finally settling at just under $98 after the profit-takers had a field day. That's more than triple its price a year ago. Whew... Is it warm in here, or is it just us?

Anyway, the reason for yesterday's sudden growth (stop giggling) was the latest batch in a long series of upgrades from the analyst community. First, Daniel Kunstler, a J.P. Morgan analyst, reiterated his "buy" rating on Apple and raised his target price to $115. Then Kevin McCarthy, an analyst with Donalson Lufkin & Jenrette, went whole-hog and raised his target price to a whopping $140. Those two love letters are based on confidence that Apple's first fiscal quarter numbers will be very strong: demand for Macs is stronger than ever, availability is improving steadily, and Santa's probably going to deliver a whole lot of iGifts this year. Consequently, Kunstler is estimating a profit of 92 cents per share when Apple releases its results in January, while McCarthy is predicting 90 cents. The analyst consensus is currently 89 cents per share. The gory details are all available in a Reuters article.

Wall Street analysts tripping all over themselves to say good things about Apple... Whodathunkit? And things are likely to keep getting better now that AAPL's broken that magical $100 barrier. (Remember how everybody was so excited when Apple's share price hit $30? Chump change!) We can't but wonder how long this Wall Street love affair can continue before Apple makes one of its patented bonehead moves of yore and sends everything crumbling to dust. Then again, even that earnings warning and G4 downgrade fiasco wasn't able to cool the relationship for long. Could this be "the one"? (Director's note: at broadcast time, AAPL was back over $100. Ooo la la!)

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Quality, Shmality... (11/30/99)

We seem to recall some nasty rumors right before the iMac's original launch in August of last year that Apple was experiencing quality control nightmares not previously seen outside of the horror film genre. Tech pundit Robert Cringely was claiming that he somehow had knowledge that Apple had an out-of-box failure rate of 11% for iMacs rolling off the line just prior to release. That made us a bit nervous, we admit. Remember, the iMac represented Apple's potential salvation-- quite possibly the company's last chance to escape a horrible sinking death. An 11% out-of-box failure rate would likely have sealed Apple's fate.

As it turns out, of course, the shipping iMac's failure rate was much, much lower-- low enough that we heard very few reports of DOA iMacs, and we certainly never read about massive quality problems in the press. Without reports of system failures quelling sales, the iMac's space-egg looks and ease of use propelled it to superstardom in the annals of computer history. It was (and continues to be) popular enough that even the Wintel industry, who derided the iMac's design when it was first unveiled, eventually decided to "borrow" elements from the iMac in hopes of capturing a bigger chunk of the consumer market. But unfortunately for them, quality problems do seem to be plaguing at least some of the iMac-inspired competition.

Faithful viewer Marc Blaydoe notes that the latest edition of Spencer F. Katt's Rumor Central contains an interesting tidbit on Gateway's new all-in-one systems. Rumor has it that the Astro isn't just butt-ugly-- it's also a "support nightmare." Says Katt, "Users, even tech-savvy buyers, are having major configuration problems, resulting in a high percentage of on-site support calls and equally high return rates." Of course, this could turn out to be no more true than Cringely's old rumor about the iMac's failure rate, but the big difference here is that the Gateway systems are shipping now. Apparently when they borrowed the iMac's all-in-one design and USB-only expandability, Gateway may have forgotten to copy one of the iMac's most important features: its ease of use. D'oh!

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If iMacs Ate Wheaties (11/30/99)

Okay, you've probably seen this by now, but there's no way we can pass up making a comment or two. Some nutcase (and we mean that in the extremely positive sense of the word-- really!) actually built a 21" iMac. That's right: he took apart an iMac, ripped out the non-monitor guts, and somehow transplanted them into a Nokia 21" monitor. The resulting Franken-iMac is beige, sure, but it's still very cool. Come on, it's got big gaping holes cut into its case! And everyone knows that chicks dig scars...

So if you haven't seen pictures of this thing yet, head over to MacAddict for the scoop. Don Hardy, the sleep-deprived maniac who decided to play mad scientist and create a freak of technology, actually did a great job. The iMac's original speakers, headphone jacks, and IR port all peek through holes in the monitor's case, right where they'd be if Apple actually ever shipped a 21" iMac. The same thing goes for the CD-ROM drive. And the iMac's port panel appears to be in the back, poking through yet another gash in the poor Nokia. Heck, the microphone even peeks through a small hole in the top of the front panel, just like on a real iMac. Given Don's attention to detail (and obvious capacity for Different Thinking), we wonder if Uncle Steve will drop him a line and offer him a job.

Then again, even though Don had to overcome all sorts of technical obstacles to build his techno-freak iMac, we suppose he could have taken it farther. Sure, he had to extend Apple's internal connectors "via soldering and shrinkconnecting no less [sic] than 230 wire ends." Yeah, he added "extra airconditioning via electric fans." And he proved that he really sweats the important yet easily-missed details by noting that he was "ever conscious of distorting the sensitive electromagnetic field around the edges of the huge Hitachi monitor." But why didn't he craft a complete replacement shell for the Nokia out of translucent polycarbonate? And where's the photo of the Nokia's original box painted up to resemble the original iMac's orange and white shipping carton? Oh, no, this won't do at all...

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