TV-PGJuly 4, 2000: Sony drops its patent infringement case against Connectix-- for about eight seconds. Meanwhile, questionable images of Apple's new mouse make the rounds, and several clues hint that ATI may soon be supplanted by NVIDIA as Apple's OEM graphics chip manufacturer...
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All-American Lawsuit (7/4/00)

It's Independence Day here in the colonies-- a distinctly American holiday, and so what better way to celebrate the Fourth than to partake of the national pastime? The crack of the gavel, the roar of the jury... sure, some wussies always say that it's too hot in early July to engage in active litigation, but those folks are obviously lacking that patriotic spirit. And for those of you who are going to try to tell us that baseball is this country's national pastime, we can only ask, where have you been for the past twenty years? Nope, in these thoroughly modern times, there are far more citizens filing lawsuits than swinging bats (at least, swinging them at baseballs), and we can only tactfully advise you to stop living in the past and get with the program.

If you need an all-American role model, just look at Sony. Yes, it's a Japanese company-- what's your point? Japan digs baseball, too, and the U.S. is a big ol' melting pot, yadda yadda yadda, and there's nothing more American than Sony's sudden flurry of legal action just before the Independence Day weekend. You are probably aware that the company filed a copyright infringement suit last year against Connectix upon the release of Virtual Game Station, software that lets people play several PlayStation games right on their Macs. A few months ago, the court cleared Connectix of seven of those nine copyright infringement charges and let the company start selling its product again; in response, Sony filed another suit alleging patent infringement. (If Sony loses the patent suit, sources tell us the next step is to slap Connectix with a "You Got Your Chocolate In My Peanut Butter" suit.)

Last week, though, was when things got really interesting. According to MacNN, right before the patent infringement case was to go to trial, Sony voluntarily dismissed all eleven claims. Sounds suspiciously like Sony never intended to go to trial at all, doesn't it? As in, maybe the suit was filed solely to make Connectix cough up legal fees out of spite? In any event, the Connectix staff sailed into the holiday weekend giddy with the knowledge that a mere two counts of copyright infringement were all that Sony still had over them. Time to kick back and wave the sparklers, right?

Wrong. That wily Sony was just funnin'. "Oh, yeah, we're dropping that patent infringement case... Psych!!" Because even as a jubilant Connectix was gearing up for the company barbecue, Sony celebrated the holiday by refiling its patent suit mere days after dismissing it. According to The Register, the judge overseeing the case was in on the prank; Charles Legge reportedly advised Sony to dismiss and refile its case in order to bypass "procedural issues that may have been unappealable." So Sony and the judge had a good ol' American laugh, and Connectix's lawyers will be working on their case by the light of the fireworks tonight. Happy Fourth, everyone!

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Function Over Form (7/4/00)

A few years back, Apple was gushing red ink in pulsing arterial spurts, the product line-up included such forgettable entries as the "Boxy And Beige" Power Mac 4400 and the "Doubles As A Hibachi" PowerBook 5300, and the company's future was in the hands of a wild-man visionary known as Gilbert Amelio. So who would have thought that in the year 2000, the hot topic of discussion around the Mac community water cooler would be when Apple would replace that damn hockey-puck mouse? It kind of puts things into perspective, doesn't it? But yes, we understand that there are those of you who strongly feel that all traces of the Puck should be incinerated in a blast furnace, after which we should never speak of it again. Relax. While Apple's stopping short of going the full revisionist route and expunging the Puck from the history books, it is working on a replacement.

We've all heard the rumors: this new mouse has no buttons, it's optical, it's wireless, it can cut through a tin can and still slice this tomato. But it's only now as Macworld Expo draws nearer that we're starting to get some glimpses of what Apple's new rodent may actually look like-- and those of you with weaker stomachs may want to avert your eyes. The first images surfaced in a ZDNet article, in the form of an "artist's rendering." What's shown is a glossy black oblong device with small, semicircular grey accents on its sides-- it's not exactly butt-ugly, by any means, but neither is it the sort of lickable design we're all accustomed to seeing emerge from Apple's industrial design think-tank in the past couple of years.

Speaking of butt-ugly, if ZDNet's illustration left you cold, the 3D renderings over at AppleInsider may throw you into heroin-withdrawal-style chills and vomiting. (Sorry for the graphic description, but we have a responsibility to warn our viewers when things get ugly.) For those of you who dare not risk your lunches by looking yourselves, AppleInsider's graphics (supposedly obtained from sources within Apple) depict what appears to be an AirPort Base Station that was left on the dashboard of a car in the July sun, stretched out into a tennis-shoe shape, and smooshed by someone's right hand to leave a series of unattractive finger indentations. Pretty it ain't. Granted, the renderings are merely supposed to be sketches, and supposedly, "in reality, [the mouse] does not appear as bulky and cumbersome as the sketches may imply, nor is its 'footprint-like' shape as apparent." That's all well and good, we suppose, but if Apple's new mouse even remotely resembles the lumpy form depicted in those sketches, we sense an even greater market for third-party USB input devices than the Puck generated.

We're not overly worried, though. There are several reasons we doubt Apple would ever design, let alone ship, a mouse like the one shown at AppleInsider. For one thing, it's clearly a right-handed design, and we can't believe Apple would ever ship a mouse that wasn't ambidextrous. For another, its "form-fitting" shape seems to invite the use of one's whole hand when operating it; we're no experts, but to us that sounds like an ergonomic disaster just begging to happen. And lastly, have we mentioned that this thing is ugly? Steve would have to have a complete tastectomy before he'd allow Apple to ship anything that looks like this lump of malformed plastic. ZDNet's rendition may not be exciting, but at least it doesn't trigger our gag reflex.

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ATI Out, NVIDIA In? (7/4/00)

Given that the Mac is a platform with such a long-standing reputation for graphics excellence, we've always found it a wee bit ironic that our options for graphics cards have always been rather limited. Remember when the move from Apple's proprietary NuBus architecture to the industry-standard PCI was supposed to open the floodgates and give us tons more choices from the PC world? Well, eventually we got a few more cards from which to choose, but the selection wasn't exactly overwhelming. And then Apple threw an AGP slot on the G4 motherboard, once again in hopes of bringing Mac users more choice in the graphics arena. What have we seen so far? Exactly zero AGP graphics cards for the Mac, other than the ATI Rage 128 Pro that ships standard with the system.

Now, nowhere does this lack of choice hurt more than in the area of 3D gaming. The Rage 128 Pro is a nice all-around card that may be perfectly suitable for graphic designers who dabble in 3D modelling, but anyone who says that it's better than a high-end 3dfx Voodoo card for playing Unreal Tournament is smoking something. That's why it's so nice that 3dfx has shown some serious support for the Mac platform over the past year, first shipping PCI Voodoo cards that work with freely-downloadable Mac drivers, and eventually shipping products with out-of-the-box Mac support. But when it comes to competition, the more the merrier. Enter NVIDIA.

NVIDIA's frequently at the top of the performance lists (beating out even 3dfx) when it comes to 3D graphics on the PC side of the fence, and there's long been speculation that the company might someday bring its products to the Mac. With the announcement of the new GeForce2 MX graphics chipset, the rumors have finally come true-- sort of. The architecture's listed as being "Mac-compatible," but no actual products for the Mac have yet been announced. So is this a sort of "carrot-on-the-stick" tactic that NVIDIA's using to attract Apple's oh-so-sweet OEM attention? Right now ATI's the company sitting pretty in terms of Mac business, since every single Mac currently produced includes ATI graphics either on the motherboard or in the AGP slot, and rumors are running rampant that NVIDIA wants those numbers instead. And given that ATI's been having business difficulties lately, as reported by MacAddict (not to mention the fact that an Accelerate Your Mac! reader discovered a hidden and password-protected section on NVIDIA's web site at which is listed as "Realm: /marketing/oem"), we can't help but wonder if ATI's being shown the door. Who knows? In the not-too-distant future there may be GeForce chips pushing the pixels in all new Macs...

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