TV-PGMay 2, 2001: The new iBook is here, and it looks hauntingly familiar somehow. Meanwhile, Apple smacks Dell upside the head with an education order for 23,000 iBooks, and Mac OS X 10.0.2 is here for those of you itching to burn...
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From the writer/creator of AtAT, a Pandemic Dad Joke taken WAYYYYYY too far


 
The TiBook Starter Kit (5/2/01)
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Needless to say, drama fiends who hoped for some sort of bombshell announcement that would shake us to the very cores of our beings are probably just a smidge disappointed. Apple has neither bought Handspring nor been bought by Sony. Steve Jobs is not abandoning his post to spend three years wandering the desert on a specially-outfitted hydrogen-powered scooter in order "to find himself." In fact, even many of the expected and more mundane subjects never came up; we still don't know about Apple's plans for PowerSchool, its not-so-secret retail stores are still officially unofficial, and new dual-processor Power Mac G4 systems are nowhere to be seen. This time around, Steve's big shocker ending was, "Surprise!! There's no 'one more thing.'"

But there is a new iBook, of course, and oh, mama, is it a beaut; a regular chip off the ol' PowerBook G4. Faithful viewer John Hussey calls it the "iceBook" and Mike refers to it as "My First Titanium™," but we're leaning towards "Baby's First TiBook™" as the sobriquet of choice. In case you somehow haven't yet heard, Apple's latest consumer portable is decidedly familiar-looking, but it's just a wee bairn, a mere 4.9 pounds of polycarbonate and magnesium with a footprint barely larger than a sheet of letter-sized paper-- but with a 500 MHz G3 processor, two USB ports, a FireWire port, the optical drive of your choice (even a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo), and all the fixin's, this teensy package packs a mighty wallop. Its 12.1-inch 1024x768 display is perfect for kids who are dwarfed by the PowerBook's relatively mammoth proportions, and also helps keep costs down; wouldja believe the entry-level iBook now costs just $1299? Now that's a consumer laptop.

Having absorbed a day's worth of punditry and feedback, it seems to us that reaction to Apple's Cube-styled iBook (indeed, as faithful viewer Steve notes, this is probably that long-rumored "CubeBook" subnotebook that had the rumormongers hopping) is overwhelmingly positive. And really, what's not to like? Sure, it no longer looks like a Fisher-Price product, it's neither heavy enough to stun a charging rhino nor large enough to hide behind when impromptu gunfights break out, and that nifty handle is no more-- but overall, even without lickable candy colors, we think consumers are going to eat these things up. And let's not forget all those travelling businessfolks for whom a widescreen PowerBook is overkill, but wouldn't be caught dead lugging a 6.8-pound Space Clam into an important client meeting. We bet business iBook sales are going to be pretty solid, without cutting much into the PowerBook's numbers.

By the way, regular viewers may recall that way back on the 23rd, we mentioned that on the iBook front, "little birds circling the AtAT headquarters [were] warbling questionable spring tunes about a single model, a single hue, and an optional CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive." The very next day we reiterated: "According to the little birds chirping around AtAT headquarters... we should expect a single configuration and color, a 500 MHz G3 processor, a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive build-to-order option, and-- most disappointingly-- a 12.1-inch screen." Well, we're no longer disappointed in the 12.1-inch display (given its increased resolution), and we're going to be paying a lot more attention to what those birds have to say in the future. Why, just this morning they were chirping something cryptic about Steve preparing a "Mac OS X preloaded on all Macs" bit for his fireside chat at WWDC in three weeks. Interpret that as you will...


 
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Education Sales Brawl 101 (5/2/01)
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While the iBook is designated as Apple's "consumer portable," the company clearly had another market firmly in mind during yesterday's product intro: education. Yup, Apple is taking its grudge match with Dell to the next level; stung by being smacked into second place by one of the beigest-thinking boxmakers on the planet, Steve devoted a good chunk of the long-awaited "press event" to playing up just how perfect the new iBook is for use in and out of the classroom. Just take a gander at Apple's touchy-feely iBook video for an example of the company's not-so-subtle message: "Hey, school districts. Buy these. Please?"

Not that any school district with half a brain in charge should need much coaxing, seeing as the new iBooks represent a stellar value-- the entry-level model is a mere $1199 to educational purchasers. Still, based on some of the boneheaded decisions we've seen the education bureaucracy squeeze out over the years, Apple's probably right to go for the throat. A New York Times article kindly pointed out by faithful viewer Tom Fort (in which The Mighty Steve is pictured demonstrating his astounding powers of levitation) reports on this latest chapter in the ongoing Apple-Dell fracas. While Steve states that he's "refusing to enter a war of words" with Mike Dell (who has publicly blasted Apple as irrelevant on a number of recent occasions), he's certainly not shy about sticking an iBook next to one of Dell's "bulkier" consumer notebooks and letting the products speak for themselves.

On top of school-targeted marketingspeak, better features, and special educational pricing, Apple is also "promoting a cart system in which dozens of portable computers can be carried from classroom to classroom as needed." You just have to love AirPort; heck, instead of using the school's computers, kids could even bring their own iBooks from home and glom happily onto the school's wireless network. There's a world of possibilities out there. If Apple really spends time and money to get the word out about how it's much more satisfactory to bring the computers to the kids instead of bringing the kids to the computers, then maybe it can regain its education crown sooner rather than later.

Undoubtedly, Apple's off to a good start; according to a company press release, Henrico Country in Virginia has already placed an order for 23,000 new iBooks for use in its public schools-- the "largest portable computer sale to education ever." (According to The PowerBook Zone, that's nearly half of the total number of iBooks sold all last quarter. Yikes!) That means that "every middle and high school student and teacher" in Henrico County will have access to an iBook, and the plan is to extend that into the lower grades eventually as well. Now, obviously Henrico County's getting some kind of special deal, but even if their cost on these units is a mere $1000 each, that's $23 million in revenue for Apple right there.

The real question, however, is this: how long will it be before Mike Dell snaps out of his tantrum and releases a new iBook clone to protect his "tops in education sales" reputation?


 
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Incremental Improvement (5/2/01)
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Other than the nifty new iBook, the only other real announcement at yesterday's press event was relatively minor, but important nonetheless: Mac OS X 10.0.2 is now available, and this latest update adds the long-awaited CD-R/RW compatibility that we've all been waiting for. (Just before Mac OS X's initial release, Steve promised that it'd be available by the end of April-- and while it's technically a day late, we're not planning on holding that against him.) So those of you bleeding-edgers who are running Apple's lickable new operating system should fire up your Preferences panel, click on Software Update, let it do its thing, and before you know it you'll be able to rip, mix, and burn.

For the record, we downloaded and applied the update on our PowerBook last night, and while we did run into some minor snags, it wasn't anything to cry about. Basically Software Update told us there were three updates we needed: the Epson Printer Drivers pack from 10.0.1 (which we never bothered to install), Mac OS X 10.0.2 itself, and iTunes 1.1 (which adds CD-burning capabilities to Apple's music app, now that Mac OS X supports the technology). Figuring we'd just go whole hog, we gave the go-ahead to install all three updates. However, Software Update appeared to hang about two-thirds of the way through the operation. After staring at an unchanging progress bar for the better part of half an hour, we took a chance and force-quit the application. After a restart for good measure-- and yes, we were able to boot after a botched system upgrade, thank you very much-- Software Update reported that all we needed was Mac OS X 10.0.2. We gave it a second try.

That time around, things went much smoother-- although the optimization part of the install took literally forty-five minutes to complete, which was a bit of a surprise. Eventually, though, we were up and running happily with 10.0.2, and we're happy to report that our Dock runs smoother, application launches are much faster, and even our volume and mute keys finally work. As for CD-burning, well, that still doesn't seem to be happening for us. However, we're going to go out on a limb and say that the problem probably isn't with Mac OS X 10.0.2 or iTunes 1.1, but rather stems from the fact that we don't actually own a CD-R drive. (That's just a hunch, mind you, and we'll probably submit a bug report to Apple just in case.) Other than that, though, we're really digging the extra speed and the restoration of our volume keys. Kudos to the Mac OS X development team for a steadily-improving customer experience; at this rate, we have no doubt that Mac OS X will be very ready for prime time by this summer, if not sooner.


 
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