TV-PGJune 7, 2001: Apple beats Dell at a school district contract by cutting one seriously aggressive deal; evidently Steve really wants his crown back. Meanwhile, computer sales are poised to get worse before they get better, and a recent Intel ad triggers a sense of familiarity that goes far beyond a simple slogan...
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From the writer/creator of AtAT, a Pandemic Dad Joke taken WAYYYYYY too far

An Offer You Can't Refuse (6/7/01)

Lip service? Ha! Steve said Apple was serious about retargeting the education market, and evidently he wasn't kidding. If you weren't swayed by earlier corrective moves such as the rehiring of Cheryl Vedoe, the purchase of PowerSchool, and the launch of the Apple Teacher Institutes, maybe the details of Apple's latest education success will finally convince you that the company is going for the throat. (Warning for a certain Steve wannabe who has been crowing loudly about stealing the education sales crown from Apple: "THESE PREMISES PATROLLED BY A MERCURIAL ATTACK CEO.")

As faithful viewer Jason noted, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an interesting article on the Quaker Valley School District and its $2 million state grant to become "a model for technology in education." When the district went shopping for new gear to help it realize that goal, it had reportedly "narrowed the choice of hardware supplier to Dell and Apple," thus reproducing the Grand Struggle in microcosm. Well, let's hope that it's a model of things to come on a larger scale, because in this particular battle, Apple won. We are left with a lingering mental image of Steve reproducing the touchdown dance from Jerry Maguire as Mike Dell frantically chugs his medication in a vain attempt to keep calm in the face of impending doom.

Under the terms of the agreement, the district is acquiring 1,600 iBooks (one for each student) and 70 PowerBooks (one for each teacher), all equipped with AirPort; in addition, it's picking up an undisclosed numbers of G4 Cubes to grace its school libraries, and will be using Apple's newly-acquired PowerSchool system to track grades and the like. But get this: this isn't just a story about a school district who, when faced with a choice between pure gold and a steaming pile of manure, actually chose the gold. Given that manure is still cheaper than gold, the district's limited budget was a definite factor when it came down to picking a final vendor. And that's where Apple's new aggression in matters of educational sales really came through.

According to the article, Quaker Valley is getting all seventy of those PowerBooks for free. It's also getting PowerSchool for a cool seventy-five grand, when a license can typically cost three times that amount. In addition, Apple has agreed to help set everything up "during the first weeks of the coming school year." All told, Quaker Valley is reportedly getting $5 million worth of Apple goods and services for "less than half that amount." As the guy in the food truck who used to sell us falafel would say, "Such a DEAL!!" Sounds like Steve may be perfectly willing to lose a little cash (heck, the company's got $4 billion of it) if he can get Macs back into the schools-- and that's a very hopeful sign and a solid investment in the future. Hopefully Mike Dell hasn't gotten too used to that crown just yet, because if things keep going like this, he'll be sending it back before too long.

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External Circumstances 101 (6/7/01)

Looks like the economy might get worse before it gets better-- at least from a computer industry perspective. According to a press release linked to by The Register, the propellerheads at IDC have just revised their estimates for personal computer shipments in 2001, and the numbers aren't good. The firm originally expected an anemic 2.2% growth rate in the U.S. this year, but is now projecting a 6.3% loss from last year's figures, due to a "swooning" U.S. market. If Steve's right and the PC isn't dead, it's sure doing a fine impression of hovering just this side of the grave.

Now, about that timing: here we are, mired in an economy that encourages consumer computer purchases the way that two broken legs and a bleeding head wound encourages a person to enter a tango contest, and Apple is unveiling all kinds of keen equipment, rolling out a shiny new operating system, and opening dozens of expensive retail stores. In a healthier economic climate, Apple would be poised for market greatness, as scads of new customers fork over the green to own some of that irresistible technology; instead, all of these incredible advances are likely going to be overshadowed by financial difficulties as cash-strapped consumers tighten their belts for another year. It's enough to make a grown Mac fan cry.

On the plus side, at least things are poised to get better next year, if only slightly; despite the current "economic dislocation" carrying over past the upcoming holiday season, IDC expects the personal computer industry to grow 4.6% in 2002. That's not great by any measure, but it's a distinct improvement over the current sales nightmare. At least Apple has plenty of cash to ride out the drought, and maybe some of the Wintel manufacturers will be decimated in what we can only expect will be a long, bloody, and highly entertaining price war. How's that for looking on the bright side of things?

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Originality Is Overrated (6/7/01)

Over the past couple of months, we've received dozens of messages from viewers pointing out that Intel's marketing campaign for the Pentium 4 is resoundingly familiar to anyone reasonably well-versed in the finer points of Stevenote history, but up 'til now, we've chosen not to make too much of that fact. Granted, Intel's "The Center Of Your Digital World" is indeed terribly evocative of Steve's "hub of your digital lifestyle," but hey, coincidences happen, right? Besides, we certainly can't expect Intel to choose a slogan that's more appropriate, like "The Only Processor Endorsed By Shiny Blue Freaks!™" (Or, more accurately, "Mac-Using Shiny Blue Freaks.")

But recently, faithful viewer Anthony Hunt tipped us off to an Intel ad that perhaps goes just a little too far: you can see the full-page ad at, in all its allegedly derivative glory. There you'll find a typically awful-looking beige PC (ostensibly outfitted with one of those lovely P4s) surrounded by six digital gadgets that you obviously can't use without buying Intel's latest chip: a digital camera, a DV camcorder, a color PDA, a portable MP3 player, etc. Does that look familiar? Well, try this: go to Apple's home page and reload until you see the overhead view of Apple's new iBook-- surrounded by six gadgets including a digital camera, a DV camcorder, a color PDA, and a portable MP3 player. What a staggering coincidence!

In fact, we might even go so far as to suggest that Intel's ad and slogan may actually be-- dare we say it?-- inspired by Apple's own marketing and vision. The only reason we're still willing to give Intel the benefit of the doubt is that its ad actually shows those digital devices orbiting the PC. Given the Pentium 4's sheer size and weight, we wouldn't be surprised if that sort of thing really happens on a day-to-day basis; it's probably got enough mass to generate a pretty hefty gravitational pull.

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