TV-PGAugust 2, 2000: Slow news day? CNET's Mac reporters are so desperate for news that they actually wrote an in-depth report on the lack of CD-RW drives in Apple computers. Meanwhile, an outfit called GlobalPC decides to raid Apple's ad cupboard, and columnist Hiawatha Bray has clearly been absorbing just a little too much RDF lately...
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2000 Is JUST Like 1984 (8/2/00)

Okay, it's not like we should be surprised when a PC manufacturer rips off an Apple innovation. It's practically an industry membership requirement these days. We should even be used to those PC guys stealing something Apple came up with several years ago; after all, Apple's usually pretty far ahead of the curve. But to find that a PC manufacturer has copied something that Apple released over sixteen years ago, frankly, blows our minds... even though the product in question was actually developed for Apple by another company. We're talking about the legendary 1984 Apple commercial, crafted by Chiat/Day to herald the birth of the Macintosh.

While there have been countless parodies, homages, and outright rip-offs of the more recent "Think Different" ads over the course of the past couple of years, we were shocked-- nay, stunned-- when we tuned in to the GlobalPC commercial called "No Exit," as recommended by faithful viewer Navarro Parker. While it starts out quite innocently, showing a woman struggling with her PC (the Zip disk smacking her in the head is classic), soon it starts to feel strangely familiar: an ominous talking head appears in a window on her screen, first spouting tech support gibberish, but then reciting some very Orwellian dogma. Soon his face grows to fill the screen, and the screen grows to fill the room-- as The Face shifts into full-on NewSpeak mode: "Complexity is Simplicity." The room is bathed in a cold, blue light, and harsh white computer text overlays The Face as it indoctrinates.

The woman (an attractive blond one; imagine that) then hurls a wooden chair, which arcs gracefully through the air. It punches though the screen, which explodes in a blaze of expensive TV pyrotechnics. And a deep male voiceover intones, "This year you will discover a computer that actually is easy to use. The GlobalPC. The wait is over."

Oh, puh-lease.

We can hear the defense already: "Apple's attractive blond woman throws a sledgehammer through her oppressive giant talking-head computer screen. Our attractive blond woman throws a chair. Not the same thing at all." Good artists borrow, great artists steal, and cheesy PC makers are neither-- so they trace. Many consider the 1984 as to be the best TV commercial of all time. The GlobalPC ad is a charcoal rubbing.

Seriously, there was a very distinctive emotional gut reaction we received upon viewing this commercial-- and it's one we recognize distinctly. We last experienced it when we saw the photos of the first iMac rip-off, the E-Power. It's probably best described as "righteous indignation coupled with utter disbelief at the sheer gall of the perpetrators, coupled with an eye-roll so severe we've sprained our ocular muscles." Don't take our word for it; watch 'em both and make your own call. But if you find steam shooting out of your ears while you stare at your own frontal lobes, don't say we didn't warn you.

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Definition: Slow News Day (8/2/00)

The infamous "Apple Vacuum" has struck, and we're not talking about some translucent, swoopy Jonathan Ive-designed carpet cleaner that generates suction via fanless convection cooling. (Although that does sound cool; anyone up for an Apple-Oreck collaboration?) We're talking about the complete and utter lack of interesting Mac news that always settles in after the Sturm und Drang of the Expo. Most people assume that the deadly lull blankets the scene right after the show closes; not so. Typically there's plenty of fat to chew for about a week to ten days after the Mac faithful drag their weary and swag-laden mortal coils home from the convention center, and then whammo-- utter silence, like that awkward pause on a date when you both run out of conversation.

It's always right about this time that we really start feeling sorry for newspeople tasked with covering the world of Apple. Your friendly neighborhood AtAT staff is not tethered by any pretensions to journalistic integrity, so we can always just make something up about Steve's addiction to Atomic Bowling, or digress unmercifully into a detailed analysis of whether or not Tobey Maguire can really pull off the Peter Parker/Spider-Man role in the upcoming movie. Real news shows are instead stuck scrabbling for crumbs in the barren aftermath of the Expo's feeding frenzy. Want proof? Exhibit A: a CNET article about how Apple doesn't ship any Macs with CD-RW drives. Now that's hitting rock-bottom.

Yes, kids, it's an actual thousand-word article that breaks this shocking news: Macs don't come with CD-RW drives. If customers want to make their own CDs, they need to buy an external drive, which is apparently unthinkable because it turns "the all-in-one iMac into a two-part affair." This startling news is followed by statistics and sales figures revealing CD-RW's exploding popularity, quotes from no fewer than three analysts who weigh the pros and cons of Apple's evident anti-CD-RW stance, and the fact that "Apple failed to respond to repeated requests for comment." Repeated requests. These guys actually called Apple multiple times asking for comment on the Great CD-RW Scandal of 2000. All that's missing are big USA Today-style pie graphs showing the ramifications of Apple's no-CD-RW policy on the price of pork bellies, the weather patterns in Nevada, and Leonardo DiCaprio's career.

Note that we're not saying that Apple shouldn't build CD-RW drives into its iMacs. We'd like to see it as a build-to-order option at the Apple Store, though personally we'd rather have an integrated DVD-ROM drive, ourselves. It's just that CNET's latest is a terrific example of what happens two weeks after the Expo when reporters on the Apple beat still have to crank out stories. And thank Steve they do, because at least it gives us something to write about...

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Steve Is All, All Is Steve (8/2/00)

This scene was originally scheduled for yesterday's episode, but Steve Ballmer's public declaration that "Linux = Communism" posed far too great an opportunity for us to pass up. So, like the National Spelling Bee champion waiting in the green room when George Clooney does a surprise walk-on appearance on Leno, it got bumped. Hey, it happens. That's show biz.

What we were going to tell you about before Ballmer opened his mighty yap (and stuck his mighty foot into it) was Hiawatha Bray's latest column, pointed out to us by faithful viewer Timothy Thomas. Bray, you may recall, was one of Apple's staunchest detractors in the press-- though these days you'd never know it. His latest work is just one more in an ever-increasing line of Apple love-fests, and each one is more positive than the last. In fact, this latest one is almost totally devoid of any criticism at all, other than his comments about how "Windows has been better than the Mac's operating system in several important respects... [but] Mac OS X is supposed to fix all this." But then he goes on to gush like a twelve-year-old N'Sync fan about how cool Mac OS X will be. It's truly a marvel to behold.

But has Bray gone too far? At the end of the article he says that he actually shook Steve's hand at the Expo and admitted he had been wrong when he predicted that the iMac would be a flop. What?! Forget our original theory that Bray had been quietly assassinated and replaced with an Apple-grown clone; clearly this is the real Bray, but he's suffering from an acute Reality Distortion Field overdose. Code Blue! Code Blue! Quick, get this man thirty CCs of Megahertz Envy, stat! And follow it up with an IV push of New Macs on Backorder, coupled with intensive Apple Display Connector Incompatibility therapy. We can only pray we're not too late.

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