TV-PGDecember 6, 1999: "Redmond Justice" not enough for you? Then brace yourself as "Cupertino Justice" heads to Japan. Meanwhile, Future Power's entire staff takes the word "clueless" to new and interesting heights, and all you need are BusinessWeek's review of the WebPC and an application that does global search and replace, and you, too, can enjoy a stroll down Memory Lane...
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More Antitrust Action (12/6/99)

"Redmond Justice" may be a fun-filled ride of thrills and chills, but if it's just not enough entertainment to slake your thirst for antitrust drama, fear not: there's a spin-off on the horizon. Lackeys working closely with the creative team report that the working title is "Cupertino Justice," though the action will probably take place primarily in distant, exotic lands in hopes of boosting ratings. Remember when Saved By The Bell went to Hawaii? Ratings gold! But Hawaii's been overdone in the "exotic TV locale" department (everything after the Brady Bunch Tiki God episodes was derivative), so the producers are thinking about making "Cupertino Justice" into "Tokyo Justice" instead. Faithful viewer Tim Rzeznik noted that Bloomberg has an abstract of the first episode.

As you have probably guessed, this latest antitrust project involves our hero, Apple Computer, and its hijinks in the Land of the Rising Sun. But don't go jumping to conclusions-- this isn't about Apple's lawsuit against Sotec for stealing the iMac's design. Nope, this time it's Apple in hot water. In the gripping, edge-of-your-seat pilot episode, the Japanese Fair Trade Commission raids the offices of Apple Japan Inc. and its "affiliated wholesalers," searching for evidence to support charges of price-fixing. See, price-fixing is illegal here in the States, too, but Apple doesn't force resellers to comply with its "minimum advertised prices" (MAP). Instead, it's more like an "incentive program"; resellers who stay above MAP are rewarded with "co-op funds," which help the reseller pay for its Mac advertising. What's that you say? Sounds like a bribe? Well, that's not for you or us to decide, and so far the FTC here on Apple's native soil hasn't sent in the SWAT teams.

In Japan, however, apparently it's a different story. The Japanese FTC suspects that Apple Japan "violated antimonopoly laws by forcing retailers to sell its products at designated prices." Unfortunately, without a script, we don't have any details beyond that. Is Apple Japan just withholding co-op funds from MAP-breakers, like here in the States, or is it a darker scenario involving the Yakuza and those pesky ninjas that surface every so often on AtAT? We can't say for sure, but with a twenty-office raid in the shooting script, it sure sounds like something fishy's going down in Tokyo, and it ain't the sushi...

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Asleep At The Server (12/6/99)

It's like seeing a bridge collapse and then sticking around to watch the authorities haul off the debris; we just can't stop checking the Future Power web site to see how long it takes them to fix the hack. Yesterday we pointed out that Future Power's E-Power page had been, um, "adjusted" by someone who felt that the iMac rip-off should at least give credit where credit is due. We fully expected that Future Power would quickly fix the situation and once again remove all references to the iMac; we even posted our own screenshot so our faithful viewers wouldn't miss out on the fun once the party ended. But every time we check, the hack is still in place.

In fact, several faithful viewers wrote in to note that Future Power's home page was hacked, as well-- the slogan underneath their company logo reads, "always on the lookout for ideas to steal!" We got a nice hearty laugh out of that one. When we checked a few hours later and it was still there, we laughed again. At dinner time, when we saw that the hack was still up, we enjoyed a fond chuckle. Just before bed (yes, we do sleep on occasion), the hack was still there and we smiled a little at the sheer absurdity of it all. And on Tuesday morning, just before broadcast time, we confirmed that the hack was still firmly in place right there on Future Power's home page, which makes us wonder if they're all dead or in comas or something. Is this the level of attention to detail you want in a company making your computer?

At broadcast time, the hack remains, forcing us to consider a possibility set forth by faithful viewer Gary Seto: "Maybe they're just being truthful. Maybe it's part of a new trend in advertising: being honest." Hey, it worked for Dudley Moore in Crazy People, right? Perhaps the other PC manufacturers will follow Future Power's lead.

  • The eMachines eOne: "We License Stolen Designs And Pass The Savings On To You!"
  • The Gateway Astro: "Just Like An iMac, But Cheaper, Less Friendly, and Butt-Ugly To Boot."
  • The Dell WebPC: "Look, Colors! Are We Like Apple Yet?"
  • The Compaq iPaq: "Sounds Like 'iMac'! Buy One! Please? We're Desperate..."

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Global Search & Replace (12/6/99)

Wow, what a weird feeling of déjà vu! We just read BusinessWeek's review of the WebPC (kindly forwarded to us by faithful viewer Matthew Guerrieri). The WebPC, of course, is Dell's "cool" new consumer computer, and as we scan through this review, we inexplicably get the feeling we've read all this before. Give it a look-see and maybe you'll get the same crazy vibe.

Let's examine some of the choicer quotes, shall we? "This is not a computer for a power user or a dedicated game player" because "there are no slots for add-in cards." There's also "no floppy drive, although Dell offers an external LS-120 SuperDrive, a 120-megabyte drive that also read and writes 1.44 MB floppies, as a $130 option." Then there are the concerns about compatibility with older hardware: "users of 3Com Palms need a $40 adapter to connect a sync cradle to a USB port. Parallel printers need a $50 adapter cable." Clueing in yet?

Let's continue. "The WebPC went to sleep mode and woke up far more reliably than today's erratic PCs. It's also a snap to set up... hooked up to the Internet within five minutes of coming out of the box." (Was that with or without the help of a border collie named Brodie?) "It includes both a 56K modem and Ethernet port, for high-speed Internet connections." Now that's an innovation. "One negative is the compact keyboard... Buyers can replace the keyboard for $50 or less, but they will lose... the matching design." And then the author goes on to describe Dell's "online-only" tech support model. We think you get the point.

Yes, Michael Dell is still trying to be like Steve, and the WebPC is Dell's answer to the iMac-- sixteen months after the iMac first shipped. Try this: copy the whole BusinessWeek review of the WebPC, paste it into your favorite word processor, and replace every instance of the word "Dell" with "Apple" and "WebPC" with "iMac." Disregard the first paragraph and it's startling how closely the result gets to being one of the zillion iMac reviews written over a year ago. (We'd post the results, but our excessive excerpting is probably already bordering on copyright infringement. Trust us and try it-- it's fun.) We suppose this means that Mike isn't just "Steve Lite"-- he's "Steve Lite" and a year late.

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