TV-PGDecember 5, 1999: CompUSA dials Dr. Kevorkian's offices-- what will happen to Apple's retail presence? Meanwhile, Future Power USA suddenly gets honest about their E-Power product, and Apple's ninja hit squad appears to be hard at work taking out Mac web sites again...
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It's Contagious (12/5/99)

Is it finally safe to say that no one, not even the most unrepentant and pig-headed Apple-bashing Wintel pundit, would still consider Apple "beleaguered"? There's a master showman at the helm, an all-star line-up of chart-topping products, analyst upgrades galore, a stock price constantly hitting new all-time highs (AAPL closed at 115 last Friday!), and more-- so we'd like to think that no one's stubborn enough to say Apple's still beleaguered. And that's important, because we need that word back so we can stick it in front of other companies, like Compaq.

But it's not just Compaq feeling the hurt these days-- some Apple allies are pretty beleaguered, too. For example, take CompUSA stores. Please. Take them far, far away and replace them with something at which the lighting is better, the selection doesn't suck, the sales help is neither clueless nor sullen, and Apple products are available, well-priced, competently demonstrated, and cheerily sold. (We suppose we should throw in the standard disclaimer here: "Note that not all CompUSA stores are anathema to Mac users, and that some of them actually have courteous, helpful, and Mac-savvy staff available to cater to your every Apple-related whim.") And now that Apple's finally shed its beleaguered status once and for all, it's tough to deny that Apple's nationwide computer superstore retail partner has caught whatever Apple had. Just take a look at CompUSA's stock performance for the grim picture: down 84% over the past two years. Ouch. Yup, that's "beleaguered" all right.

But whereas Apple fought tooth and nail to stay afloat and become profitable again, CompUSA appears to be committing suicide instead. According to a Fortune article, the company is throwing its weight behind its own e-commerce site, a wholly-owned but independently-acting subsidiary that actually competes against the parent company (and is winning). It seems that CompUSA may actually plan to crash and burn, leaving Cozone to rise from its ashes. It's a neat strategy, maybe, but what does it mean for Apple? Sure, Cozone sells iMacs, but there are plenty of e-commerce sites that do that-- including Apple's own. CompUSA and the Apple store-within-a-store represented the Mac's major national retail presence, and if that goes, all that's left is the iGoods at Sears. (Excuse us while we shudder and suppress our gag reflex.) Here's hoping that Apple has a plan.

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Hit With The Honest Stick (12/5/99)

Ooooh, sometimes the universe doles out a heaping helping of poetic justice and it's sweeter than cherry Dum Dums. Of course, usually the universe gets a little helping hand from mere mortals, but it still puts a smile on our collective face. Like when Judge Jackson published his findings of fact in the "Redmond Justice" trial-- it just made us feel all warm and sunny inside. And now faithful viewer Joe Pavlo has informed us of a late-breaking development in the whole karmic payback scheme of things: take a look at Future Power's E-Power page.

While the picture of the original (er, we mean "first") iMac clone is exactly what we expected, the page's text has had several "amendments" made to it in the interest of truth in advertising. Under the photo is the caption "Future Power: The Windows PC that wishes it was [sic] an iMac." It's also listed as "Bulbous, Lame, Internet-Clumsy." Check out the feature list: the E-Power comes with an Intel Celeron 433 ("up to half as fast as an iMac"). And as for its release date? "Coming as soon as we can fool the courts into thinking this was our idea in the first place!" Just in case the hack gets taken down before you get a chance to see it, we've posted a 116KB JPEG screenshot.

So, whaddya think? Disgruntled employee, or outside hack? We're guessing "hack" ourselves-- it's a little amateurish on the page, but funny nonetheless. And as Joe says, "I'll bet you Future Power doesn't use Mac OS X Server!" Good guess, Joe. NetCraft reports that Future Power's site is run by-- surprise, surprise-- "Microsoft-IIS/4.0 on NT4 or Windows 98." Microsoft's web server software is a hacker's dream, so we're told. Incidentally, Netcraft also reports that "Microsoft-IIS is also being used by Compaq." Will the same hacker target the iPaq next? (No, that's not an invitation or a challenge. We don't condone what happened to Future Power's site. Be nice, people. Really.)

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Spare Us A Pillow? (12/5/99)

You know, statistically speaking, not many shows make it into their third season intact; most producers (like your friendly neighborhood AtAT staff) lose their share of sleep worrying about the bogeyman known as "cancellation." In AtAT's case, our Nielsen numbers have grown over the years, thanks to our faithful viewers, so we never had to worry much about a ratings-based cancellation. In the world of Mac web sites, though, there's always the specter of Apple's elite anti-web squadron lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike.

Sure, we know what some of you are thinking: sleep deprivation induces paranoia, and the AtAT staff's been missing the last train to Dreamland again. But that's just what "they" want you to think. What better way to cast doubt upon our words of Truth™ than by cleverly faking sleep studies over the course of the past several decades, all in anticipation of a day when it would become necessary to discredit a handful of REM-challenged soap opera writers trying to expose their secret plans for world domination? See? It all just falls into place. Just because we're tired doesn't mean they aren't all out to get us; the fact that we haven't been sleeping much lately has no bearing on the fact that Apple's ninja hit squad is once again in full force.

Yes, it's the return of the ninja hit squad-- that lovable AtAT mainstay who first appeared when AtAT was but three weeks into its first season. Tracking the movements of the hit squad over the past couple of years shows a frightening and efficient crippling and/or extermination of a number of Mac-related web sites: MacInsider and ThessaSOURCE both died in what some would consider "suspicious" circumstances; Mac OS Rumors and Apple Insider (then called Reality) both eventually emerged tattered but alive after mysterious "server outages" and "hiatuses." And when AtAT's own server has done "interesting" things in the past, eyewitnesses report glimpses of lithe, black-clad figures silently vanishing into the shadows.

And now evidently Master Steve has turned up the heat... The hit squad must have been working hard throughout the night, because now MacCentral and MacObserver are nowhere to be found. Oh, curse the foul forces who would ruthlessly eliminate two beloved sites in one deadly night! Rise up, faithful viewers-- rise up and join us in avenging the deaths of our friends! The gutters of Cupertino will overflow with blood and... Oh, wait a minute. According to MacInTouch, Pair Networks is relocating today, so sites hosted by them (like, say, MacCentral and MacObserver) will be offline until sometime Monday afternoon. Never mind. Forget all that "blood in the gutters" stuff. Perhaps we'll just curl up over here and take a little nap...

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