TV-PGJune 12, 2001: The granddaddy of all rumors sites pours cold water on the "removable tablet iMac" theory. Meanwhile, Pixar employees are whooping it up in their new Steve-designed headquarters (complete with Love Lounge), and The Register's Tony Smith dons his asbestos skivvies to note that Windows XP's interface may be more revolutionary than Mac OS X's...
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But What A Dream It Was (6/12/01)

It's just one of those weeks; chalk up another day in the lull. As confirmed Apple drama junkies, we're so starved for Mac-themed news, we've taken to monitoring CNN on the off-chance that maybe, just maybe, Steve Jobs flipped out and is holed up in a clock tower with a rifle and a scope; alas, no such luck (so far). In the meantime we find ourselves reduced to endless speculation about the new iMac that, Jobs willing, will debut at Macworld Expo in-- heaven help us-- thirty-six days. (Hopefully this drought won't continue for another five weeks, because we'll be dead of boredom in two.)

Granted, last week's scoop at The Register provided a short burst of excitement: the pulse of even the most jaded Mac watcher must have quickened a bit at the prospect of an iMac 2 that not only features the widely-expected LCD display, but also functions as a wireless remote-terminal "Web pad" via a stylus and a detachable screen. Of course, it was an unsubstantiated rumor, but in the absence of any real news, wild speculation and potential hoaxes are better than nothing. Heck, sometimes they're far better than news in the first place.

Unfortunately, after a bit of rational thought, most people decided that, due to the intrusion of a pesky thing called "reality," the introduction of such a system next month lacks feasibility. Between component costs for pressure-sensitive LCDs, the necessity of including both a battery and a second processor in the detachable screen unit, the cost of dark and powerful magick to overcome current wireless bandwidth limitations, etc., the alleged proposed Webpad iMac would carry a price tag of roughly $74,000. Call us crazy, but the Cube debacle notwithstanding, we just don't see Apple introducing any new iMac at a base price point much over $999.

Still, we at AtAT are usually pretty good at ignoring rational arguments in favor of the far more exciting practice of blind speculation. We managed to shrug off most of the naysaying, but when Mac OS Rumors-- a site that many would proclaim the king of blind speculation-- stated that the iMac picture and description posted at The Register "blatantly ignores a number of realities," well, that was pretty much the end of the party for us. Sure, we looked for holes in MOSR's argument (since when does the iMac's "existing enclosure" have a port door?), but eventually, we had to agree: a Webpad iMac next month is pretty much a pipe dream.

Don't despair, though; as a consolation prize, MOSR claims that next month's iMac is coming, and it does feature an LCD display. However, it's a "vertically oriented" one-piece design (Son of Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh?), and you can forget about removable-tablet functionality-- at least for now. For our part, we're finally willing to have our expectations lowered; after all, that way if Apple does somehow manage to overcome the laws of time and space by unveiling a Webpad iMac, we'll get to enjoy one of those surprises that requires you to search around on the floor for your jaw afterwards...

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What, A HAPPY Workplace? (6/12/01)

Whither Steve goest, so goeth AtAT-- and since nothing particularly dramatic seems to be happening at Apple these days, it's probably as good a time as any to check in over at Pixar. Steve's "other company" might basically run itself (we're told His Mercurialness spends the lion's share of his precious time on Apple), but at least one aspect of the computer animation outfit bears his distinctive brand of micromanagement: the new headquarters. We first mentioned Pixar's new digs back in December, when the company's employees finally waved goodbye to the occasional explosions of the nearby Chevron refinery and started to move into an old Del Monte cannery that Steve had spent the past three and a half years reworking into an animator's heaven on earth.

At the time we mentioned some of Steve's spiffier touches, including "a terraced amphitheater, basketball and volleyball courts, a jogging path, and a lap pool"-- with a swimming pool and an apple orchard still to come. Well, we're not sure if the apples are in place just yet, but according to an article in The New York Times, apparently the Pixarians have settled in nicely-- orchard or no orchard. If any of the employees are put out by Steve's attempt to "create a lot of arbitrary collisions of people" (all of the bathrooms and mailboxes are apparently located in one central atrium), you'd never know it from the Times's description, which seems to indicate that for all of Steve's careful planning, the real warmth and personality in Pixar's new headquarters comes from the workers themselves. Some employees zip through the atrium on metal scooters; others have decorated their offices with "tiki torches and bamboo hutches"; "one cluster of offices has set up its own rock 'n' roll stage." And then there's the Love Lounge.

Rather than make you ask, we'll just tell you: the Love Lounge is a stainless steel crawl space "about the size of a restaurant booth" apparently installed to provide maintenance access to an air-conditioning unit. Animator Andrew Gordon (in whose office the teeny doorway to the room is located) is presumably responsible for the crawl space's transformation into the Love Lounge-- complete with tasseled pillows, a fold-up cocktail table, an overhead string of Christmas lights, and a whole lotta glassware and liquor. Mr. Gordon also serves as the Lounge's bartender, donning a "1940's vintage smoking jacket" to mix drinks for guests, who can sip them calmly in private while listening to piped-in swing music and keeping a watchful eye on the outside corridor via closed-circuit TV. The Love Lounge's walls boast autographs from some of its more distinguished visitors, including "Michael Eisner, Roy Disney, and Randy Newman."

While this redefinition of the term "mini-bar" was obviously not among Steve's planned features in Pixar's new digs, the fact that he wholeheartedly approves of the Love Lounge is just one more reason to love the lil' fella. If we ever pick up and move to the San Francisco area, remind us to apply for jobs at Pixar as well as at Apple; either environment would be a nice change from dress code warnings and twenty-five cent coffee.

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Don't Flame The Messenger (6/12/01)

Bored with the lack of interesting happenings in the Mac scene right this minute? Well, nothing spices up a dull party like a healthy round of heresy! The Register's Tony Smith evidently just installed a new mail server and decided to stress-test it under a worst-case scenario, because he has officially gone on record with his stated opinion that Mac OS X's Aqua interface "isn't as innovative" as the "Luna" user interface in the upcoming Windows XP-- an act which, as you all know, is tantamount to dousing one's genitals in steak sauce and then repeatedly flicking the ear of a sleeping Burmese tiger.

Not that we think you should flame ol' Tony, because if you actually read his reasoning, he makes some good points. Aqua, at its core, is the same old point-and-click routine we've all been using for donkey's years; sure, the Finder got wacky and has a "new" column view (which is itself at least a decade old and virtually unchanged from NeXTSTEP), the Dock makes us look at the bottom of the screen instead of clicking in the upper-right corner to view our running applications, etc., but for the most part, these are all just slightly (and sometimes arbitrarily) different ways of doing the same old things. That's not necessarily bad-- unless there was room for improvement and Apple didn't really make things better.

Luna, on the other hand, may be Aqua-inspired though ugly as sin (Tony likens it to "what you'd get if you told a colourblind guy to copy a Monet"), but it apparently also adds just about the last thing you'd ever expect to see coming out of Redmond: what appear to be some honest-to-goodness functional innovations. In particular, Tony points to the "My Pictures" folder as an example. Mac OS X's Finder includes a nicer preview option over previous Mac OS versions, but it still only lets you see a thumbnail of a single file at a time. In contrast, Windows XP's "My Pictures" folder "provides a slideshow feature" and a variety of ways to preview the images contained within; other basic consumer-oriented tasks such as compressing a photo and emailing it to Grandma are just a click away (via tight "integration" with Outlook Express, we'd wager).

So instead of flaming Tony (who is a Mac user, by the by), think about the number of steps your mom might have to take to email you copies of the digital pictures she took if she were using Mac OS X 10.0.3. Assume that the camera is even supported by Mac OS X in the first place; after transferring the images, she'd probably have to locate them via the Finder, preview them one at a time to find the good ones, switch to Mail, create a new outgoing message addressed to you, and then drag in the pictures she wants to send-- oh, and hopefully they're already email-friendly JPEGs instead of uncompressed TIFFs.

The process isn't brain surgery, to be sure, but we have to admit, Tony's description of the way "My Pictures" will supposedly work does sound simpler. Here's hoping that Steve's whole "digital hub" strategy will extend to super-simple, consumer-friendly digital photo processing (among other tasks) come Mac OS X 10.1 next month. We've long had to endure goofy claims that Windows's interface is "almost is good as a Mac's"; in October we don't want to have to start hearing people say that it's better.

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