TV-PGSeptember 18, 2000: The second Cube commercial is missing in action, but you can catch a glimpse of its first public showing thanks to the miracle of QuickTime. Meanwhile, under-forecasting and tracking number snafus mar the introduction of the Mac OS X public beta, and Apple finally secures its official status as a "national treasure"...
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What Else Have You Got? (9/18/00)

Will we ever learn? We asked for a drink of water and wound up getting hit in the face with a firehose. See, first we complained that there were no TV commercials for Apple's slick new Power Mac G4 Cube. Then, two weeks later, apparently the Powers That Be heard our gripe and granted our wish: thirty seconds of music by Hendrix, voice by Rollins, and brain-in-a-box by Apple Computer-- an oasis of cool in a desert of summer reruns. All was well in Cubeville.

After that first surprise sighting, every time we heard "Purple Haze" start blasting from the set, our ears would perk up, our eyes would brighten, and we'd start salivating like Pavlov's dogs-- which is all well and good, except frankly, we're starting to run out of spit. Is it just us, or is the Cube commercial getting a lot of airplay? It seems to pop up with almost alarming regularity whenever we've got the TV on (which is, as regular viewers know, whenever we're awake). That might indicate that Apple's marketing aim is dead-on accurate, since we at AtAT are obviously potential Cube customers and we're seeing ads for the thing in the middle of every show we watch. It also might mean that Apple's blowing a huge wad of cash to show the commercial everywhere it can, shotgun-style. Either way, we're getting a whole lot of Cube.

Now, we're not sick of it yet-- between Rollins, Hendrix, and the Cube itself, we'd be more likely to get tired of breathing-- but we do have to wonder whether Apple's going to show the second Cube commercial for variety's sake. As many viewers noted, the two commercials to which we referred last Friday are, in fact, one and the same. But there were two distinct Cube ads unveiled at the Apple Expo, one of which is still apparently being kept off the air here in the U.S. And while the first ad is now available in QuickTime format from Apple's ads page, the mysterious "missing" commercial is missing from the 'net, too.

Or is it? Faithful viewer David Triska informed us that while Apple decided not to go the live webcast route with last week's Stevenote, the company has deigned to post a streaming-on-demand QuickTime version after the fact. And he was even kind enough to tell us that the two Cube commercials start approximately thirty-six minutes and twenty-two seconds into the broadcast, so we figured we'd get the skinny on this enigmatic "second Cube ad" once and for all. High-energy techno music plays in the background as a Cube spins like an excited subatomic particle; an unidentified voice (Katie, AtAT's resident fact-checker and Goddess of Minutiae, hasn't had a chance to hear it yet) intones, "According to quantum theory, tremendous energy can be compressed into a tiny packet. A tiny packet, indeed. Presenting: a supercomputer in an eight-inch cube."

Hey, it got plenty of applause, so hopefully Apple's just keeping it on the shelf temporarily and we'll see it on the air soon. In the meantime, you can only experience it through the magic of streaming QuickTime, and we suggest that you do so. While you're at it, try to take the time to catch the whole event, because it's rather enlightening. In fact, we've got to admit-- the Key Lime iBook looks a lot more attractive in the Stevenote footage than it does on Apple's iBook page, and we're really starting to understand its appeal. (That doesn't mean we're buying one, though.)

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Of Shipping And "Shipping" (9/18/00)

There are ship dates, and there are "ship dates." For example, technically, the Mac OS X public beta "shipped" last Wednesday; it was officially made available to the public. Well, okay, some of the public-- as in, the public that happened to be at Apple Expo in Paris with thirty bucks (or, we assume, the rough equivalent in Euros) in hand. The rest of us poor shmoes had to place our orders at the Apple Store, which, while painless, doesn't rank quite as high on the scale of instant gratification as forking over a wad of sweaty money and being handed a big white folder with a big blue "X" on it, containing the first public version of the operating system we've all been waiting for since Eisenhower was in office.

So the beta "shipped" last Wednesday. However, our own personal copy didn't ship until Friday evening, if the confirmation email we received from Apple was correct. And we can't be sure that the message was correct, since the FedEx tracking number it included was wrong. Blatantly so, in fact-- whereas FedEx numbers have nine or twelve digits, the tracking number still reported to us at the Apple Store has eighteen. Hmmm... an eighteen-character string beginning with "1Z"... where have we seen that before? Oh, yes-- it's a UPS tracking number. Mystery solved. Except, of course, we still don't know where our copy of the beta is.

For those of you who find yourselves in a similar sitch, MacNN reports that it's only a reporting glitch, and customers who paid for FedEx delivery are indeed getting FedEx delivery-- but the error doesn't exactly inspire confidence. This is on top of the fact that Apple needed two and a half days to ship out a CD-ROM, due to "unanticipated response." According to Mac OS Planet, Apple had rung up over 59,000 orders for the beta as of Friday afternoon-- and had initially only made a thousand copies of the software available for shipment. That may be a new record for under-forecasting, though it's pretty nifty that Apple was able to scrape up more copies to ship only a couple of days later. And if charging thirty bucks for the beta was Apple's attempt to keep the testing pool small, well, it sounds like maybe they should have charged more. In any case, our copy should be arriving today. In theory.

As for the "ship date" of Mac OS X 1.0, well, officially it's still "early 2001." But as we've mentioned in the past, that could technically mean any time up to and including June 30th. Mac OS Rumors alludes to sources claiming an internal release target of "April or May, possibly at WWDC," which we're finding more and more likely, given the crushing weight of feedback Apple is going to receive from the, say, hundred thousand beta testers. Abandon all hope, ye who still think Apple can make a Macworld Expo San Francisco release in early January. And even if Mac OS X "ships" at WWDC, when do you suppose it'll actually ship?

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Next Up: 8th World Wonder (9/18/00)

Well, the Smithsonian has finally made official what you and we have all known for years: Apple is a national treasure. According to the Washington Post, cranking out translucent, brightly-colored computers isn't just a way to boost sales; it's also one way to win a National Design Award recognizing "excellence, innovation, and especially public impact." According to the Smithsonian, Apple wins because the current Macs are "revolutionary" and feature "groundbreaking but user-friendly design." Heck, it's about time.

The distinction is awarded by the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, who seeks to honor excellence in "American design." Shhh, no one tell them that Jonathan Ive, the man with the candy-colored plan, is British. Suppose he can do an American accent when he accepts the award? On second thought, there's no need; despite the fact that Apple would be dubbed a "national treasure" today at the freakin' White House, Ive won't be there-- and neither will Steve. Instead, they're apparently kicking back and unwinding after the stress of last week's Apple Expo in Paris.

Turning down an invitation to be crowned a national treasure, just because they're too tired... now that's success, baby. Unless perhaps Steve has come away from the Paris show fully Europeanized and his decision not to attend the awards ceremony is a deliberate snub. We can see it now-- Apple ditches its ugly American Cupertino headquarters, relocates to France, reinstates the British English localised version of the Mac OS, and forces us Yanks to give up our Trash and use the Wastebasket. This could get interesting...

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