TV-PGFebruary 16, 2000: Did you believe Steve when he called FreeMac's Jonathan Strum a liar? Wait 'til you hear Strum's side of the story... Meanwhile, Macophiles are blue that Pismo looks just like Lombard, and Sony files another lawsuit against Connectix, this time alleging patent infringement in Virtual Game Station...
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Lying or Clueless? (2/16/00)

So here we are, smack dab in the middle of yet another presidential election season, and the fur's a-flyin' as usual, with candidates and would-be candidates slinging mud in the grand old fashion that made the U.S. what it is today. Lies, accusations of lies, and character attacks are the order of the day-- and with such soap-operatic elements in play, you'd think that we at AtAT would be a lot more interested in the race to the White House than we actually are. The truth of the matter, though, is that the catfights and snipefests between the presidential wannabes are purely bush league; the stuff of lightweights. For the very best in public half-truths, obfuscations, and outright lies, look no further than the world of Apple.

For example, just take this whole FreeMac controversy. You've been following the story up 'til now, right? Jonathan Strum of FreeMac announced his intention to "give away" a million iMacs starting last September, but the iMacs never materialized. Instead, Strum recently transformed FreeMac into a new venture called NadaPC, which will give away a million unspecified "Internet appliances" instead of iMacs. The reason? Strum claimed that Apple had reversed its earlier acceptance of his scheme, and was now refusing to let him buy a million iMacs to redistribute, even if he paid full retail price.

That, of course, ticked off the thousands upon thousands of people interested in getting a free iMac from Strum, and some of the more vocal parties expressed their disapproval by emailing Steve Jobs himself. That's when Jobs countered with his own claim that Strum's story was "bogus" and that "no one ever tried to stop [FreeMac]" from purchasing iMacs from "any Apple reseller." The plot thickens! In his typically straightforward way, Steve's calling Strum a liar.

But does Steve have the whole story? Despite his reputation as an incurable micromanager, there are certainly cases in which his assumption that he knows everything has led to embarrassing incidents-- remember last month's altercation at the Expo with those poor folks selling (completely licensed, totally legit) Apple logo watches? Keep that in mind as you read Strum's complete tale at MacNN; the man really seems to have his facts in order, and he's even got email from high-ranking Apple executives backing up his story. Either he's constructed an intensely elaborate series of lies for no readily apparent reason, or Steve's in the wrong. Which means that, in all likelihood, Steve's either flat-out lying, or has been talking about this issue without being in full possession of all the facts. Either way, we've said it before and we'll say it again: Steve Jobs for President in 2000, because he's obviously got what it takes for the job.

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Old Is New Again (2/16/00)

Post-holiday depression's one thing, but for us, post-Expo depression's a nastier affliction. The causes are similar; a gradual buildup of expectations past all reasonable degree, culminating in a dose of reality that can't help but be a bit of a letdown. And this time around, it's a more localized case of disappointment permeating the Mac community; unlike at last month's Expo, this time Uncle Steve really did trot out a bunch of new hardware goodies-- more than most people were expecting, in fact. The iBooks got a nice RAM and storage boost, plus a spiffy new Graphite "Special Edition." The G4s got their processors juiced up 50 MHz in all configurations. And finally, we got a new PowerBook-- Pismo's here and it's a barn-burner.

But the thing is, Pismo's what's causing the bulk of the post-Expo depression. Nobody's faulting its specs; it's speedy, loaded with new features like FireWire and AirPort compatibility, and reasonably priced. Still, we've got a lot of Apple watchers wandering around with frowny faces and muttering, "Is that all?" The problem, you see, is that Pismo looks just like Lombard, the PowerBook G3 we've all been seeing since last May. Its got no shiny translucent bits, no liquid Graphite accents (on the outside, at least), no iBook-inspired clamshell design-- it's the same black Lombard with new guts, pure and simple. And as such, it's definitely the odd Mac out when viewed against the rest of the Apple product line-up. (Remember Sesame Street? "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong...")

But for those of you who are depressed, rejoice! We were actually wrong yesterday when we said that the only way to tell a Pismo from a Lombard was to look at their rear ends. Faithful viewer Al Shaw points out that, if both 'Books are open, there's another way to tell with a mere glance: "the Lombard has the words 'Macintosh PowerBook G3' silkscreened right beneath the screen. The Pismo just has the word 'PowerBook.'" Glory be, he's right! That was an important detail that escaped our notice; Apple's officially named Pismo "PowerBook." Not PowerBook G3, not PowerBook 2000, just... PowerBook. Congratulations to Pismo for joining the one-name club along with iMac, iBook, and Cher.

Granted, just calling it "PowerBook" might lead to all kinds of confusion considering how many other PowerBooks of various kinds have been released over the years, but at least it's not just another PowerBook G3-- Apple's had to differentiate between those in its documentation by calling them the PowerBook G3 (that's the original 3400-chassis version), the PowerBook G3 Series (that's Wall Street), and the PowerBook G3 (Bronze Keyboard) (that's Lombard). And now we notice that Apple's referring to Pismo as PowerBook (FireWire). Whatever-- it's not like Apple hasn't managed to deal with multiple products with the same name before. We're just glad that there's something else superficially different between Pismo and Lombard.

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...Sue, Sue Again (2/16/00)

Okay, cynical, world-weary pessimists that we are, we can't say we're exactly surprised, but it still makes us roll our eyes and sigh long and deep; Sony's filed another lawsuit against Connectix because of its Virtual Game Station product. The history between these two scrappers dates back to January of last year, when Connectix unveiled its groundbreaking PlayStation emulator to a cheering Expo crowd. Sony was not amused, and it was mere weeks before a suit was filed, alleging copyright infringement. A judge awarded Sony a preliminary injunction, and Connectix was therefore barred from manufacturing or shipping any more copies until the case was over.

Things moved at the typically glacial pace of litigation, until last week when a jubilant Connectix announced that an appeals court had overturned the injunction, freeing the company once again to resume shipments of VGS. (Everyone took this to mean that the case was over, but as far as we know, it's still pending and slated for a June or July trial-- only the injunction was struck down, to the best of our knowledge.) Anyway, if we can indulge in a bit of rampant personification for a moment, Connectix was doing a little victory dance, while Sony shook its fist and muttered, "Curses! Foiled again!" Sony skulked off to lick its wounds and plot its next move, as Connectix fired up its e-store and shipped like mad, grinning all the while.

Then the other shoe dropped; according to a Bloomberg News article, Sony's filed another lawsuit, this time alleging patent infringement. Sony claims that Connectix violated some eleven patents in the construction of their "rival product." And once again, you can bet that Sony's going to try for another injunction-- the lawyers probably care more about preventing Connectix from shipping its product than actually winning the cases. War by attrition; always an effective strategy. But until that injunction materializes, you can bet that Connectix is going to flood the channel with as many copies of VGS as it can crank out. Heck, there are still copies out there from before the last injunction...

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