TV-PGMay 3, 2001: Is it almost time to kiss those bulky CRTs goodbye? Meanwhile, Mike Dell grabs the spotlight back by recalling 284,000 laptop batteries, and word has it that the iBook's pristine white enclosure may not look all that great after a bit of everyday handling...
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From the writer/creator of AtAT, a Pandemic Dad Joke taken WAYYYYYY too far

The World Is Flat (Or Will Be) (5/3/01)

Ah, the good ol' cathode ray tube-- for oh so many years, the CRT has been the window of the computer's soul. But is all that about to change? The popularity of LCD displays has been on the rise as the price of the technology continues to drop, and while there are certainly good reasons to love the time-honored CRT (price, better multiple resolution support, and color vibrancy, mainly), there are even more reasons why some people think they've long since worn out their welcome. For instance, they're fat. They're heavy. They put out a ton of heat. They suck down a ton of power. And they pump your head full of radiation without even giving you the proportionate strength of a spider. Where's the fun in that?

Now, given the inelegant nature of those particular drawbacks, we have to assume that Uncle Steve would love to rid the planet of CRTs just as he led the crusade against floppy drives. Certainly Apple's current line of displays backs up that theory; only one of Apple's three displays uses a CRT. On top of that, we've been hearing rumblings about industry-wide LCD price drops for a while, now, and don't forget that Apple has that spiffy investment in Samsung intended to provide some muscle when it comes to getting plenty of panels at good prices. Throw all those factors in a bowl, mix well, bake for thirty minutes at 350°, and presto: you get outfits like CNET reporting that Apple has definite plans to nix the CRT altogether, and soon. (Thanks to faithful viewer Simone Bianconcini for the link.)

Of course, in order for Apple to achieve that lofty goal, a few things are going to have to happen. First of all, LCD prices are going to have to keep plummeting. As it stands, the Apple Cinema Display is Apple's only model big enough for the creative professional, but at $2999, only six or seven people on the planet can afford one. On the lower end, the 15-inch Studio Display is gorgeous in all its LCD-based glory, but even the recently-reduced price of $799 can sound like an awful lot to the average shopper for fifteen inches of screen. If Apple's going to ditch its 17-inch CRT-based offering, it had better be able to shift the 15-inch LCD into that $499 price slot.

Even if that happens, obviously Apple's going to need something to fill the gap between 15 and 22 inches. Enter the 17- or 18-inch LCD Studio Display that's been shuffled around the rumor mill for at least a year, now; if Apple can ship one of those and keep the price under a grand, then maybe the company can give the CRT its walking papers. (The latest rumor is that the long-fabled 17-inch LCD display will finally debut sometime between next month and Macworld Expo in July.)

Oh, wait-- we're forgetting something. As faithful viewer Paul Kaplan reminds us, what about the CRT inextricably embedded into every iMac that Apple ships? Well, consider the facts and the timing. For one thing, probably for reasons of size, weight, and looks, Apple has steadfastly refused to bump the iMac's 15-inch CRT to a 17-inch model, despite the market seemingly demanding such a move. For another, we know that Mac OS X is going to be preloaded on all Macs this summer, amid much fanfare. Add to that the fact that Apple's entire product line is moving away from curves and colors in favor of straight lines and the "Cube Aesthetic." Now, given the fact that LCD prices are finally plummeting to reasonable levels, isn't it logical that Apple might have a dramatically different LCD-based iMac slated for an Expo roll-out, designed to showcase Mac OS X? We're just guessing, here, folks, but that's how we'd write this script. And if it plays out that way, you can indeed kiss that CRT goodbye-- at least from Apple's product line.

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Forget Hellfire; It's Dellfire! (5/3/01)

Here's us, yesterday: "Gee, what's Mike Dell gonna do now that the new iBook (not to mention the sale of 23,000 of them to a single county's worth of schools in Georgia) is stealing his education thunder?" And here's us today: "Oh, of course-- he's going to distract the multitudes by setting his own notebooks on fire. Again." Hey, what can we say? His obsession with All Things Steve notwithstanding, the man's a beige thinker through and through, and as such, he's nothing if not utterly predictable. In fact, we're more than a little embarrassed not to have seen it coming.

Regular viewers will recall that it was only last October when Dell was forced to recall some 27,000 notebook batteries due to a "serious defect" suspiciously reminiscent of Apple's legendary PowerBook 5300 debacle, only more so; whereas the defective 5300 batteries never caused an "incendiary incident" outside of a lab setting, apparently one Dell laptop actually caught fire in the field. (It was at that time that we realized just how deep Mike Dell's psychosis ran, since he was evidently copying an Apple blunder that even predated the Second Jobs Dynasty. Now that's sick.)

So here we are, not seven months later, and Mike's panicking because after all his trumpeting about having swiped the education crown from Steve, the iBook comes along and threatens to turn the tables once again. So what does he do? Well, you probably already know, since faithful viewer Alan Benson was the first of roughly eleventy-zillion people to point out the sad truth in the form of another CNET article: he pulled the same "flaming laptop" stunt again, only times ten. Yes, folks, this time around Dell is recalling 284,000 batteries from its "Inspiron 5000 and 5000(e)" portables because a "design flaw" has caused one of these puppies to burst into flame. And isn't that timing just so convenient?

Here's what we figure really happened: Mikey bribed a reporter to sneak a video camera into the press event on Tuesday and was watching from afar. Eventually he saw Steve holding up one of Dell's boat-anchor consumer laptops next to the svelte and stylin' new iBook. Needless to say, Mike blacked out-- and the next thing he knew, he discovered that he had set fire to his own Inspiron laptop in a paroxysm of inadequacy-fueled rage. In a desperate and psychotic bid for attention-- any attention-- he then ordered his minions to use his torched notebook as evidence to launch a massive recall and alert the press. Hey, sicker things have happened-- particularly when Dell is involved. We just hope the man seeks help.

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Smudges Build Character... (5/3/01)

At first we thought everyone was making too much of the new iBook color choices-- or rather, the lack thereof. ("You can have any color as long as it's white.") For a market that until recently had a choice between a very conservative Graphite, a slightly more colorful Indigo, and a psychotically bright Key Lime, suddenly being limited to white is a bit of a shock, to be sure. But since we're increasingly convinced that this iBook wasn't originally going to be an iBook (think "CubeBook" retargeted to avoid any association with that particular product fiasco), we're not surprised at its single-hue nature. And the feature set and price are so deliriously awesome, we doubt the color is going to deter many buyers.

Unless, of course, they're neat freaks. The new iBook may look nice and clean fresh out of the box, but apparently that glossy white finish doesn't stay spotless for long. Faithful viewer (and, we feel compelled to mention, fabulous babe) Helen Balasny pointed out a Salon article that focuses on the apparent drawbacks of the iBook's gleaming white look. See, at the press event, Apple actually passed several of the new iBooks down the aisles so that the assembled reporters could get to check one out up close. (You can see this for yourself; faithful viewer Scott Daniels notes that there's a QuickTime rebroadcast of Tuesday's iBook unveiling now available.) Well, apparently the Salon reporter was seated towards the end of one of the rows, because by the time an iBook got down there, it was "visibly smudged with greasy fingerprints."

Well, duh, if you're going to let reporters touch it! Just kidding. Seriously, it sounds to us like the iBook is styled very much like the Cube-- but the Cube just sits on a desk and looks gorgeous, while the iBook is going to be manhandled on a daily basis by kids whose hands are dripping with forty-seven different varieties of filth. If we're right in thinking that the iBook is really the "CubeBook," then Apple's designers originally expected it to be handled by well-manicured executives, not rampaging schoolchildren; here's hoping that the iBook can survive the rigors of school life and still emerge looking great.

And if it can't, well, there's always the possibility that Apple is working on alternative (and perhaps less gleamingly pristine) color choices. Faithful viewer Eric "DeadEnd" Merrill was the first of many to point out that when configuring an iBook at the Apple Store, he caught a glimpse of a quizzical little tag that read "Color A" in the product summary. Is it just a WebObjects oddity that the web folks forgot to clean up, or is it a hint of hues B, C, and D to come? Only Steve knows for sure...

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