TV-PGAugust 23, 2001: No new hardware product launches in Paris next month? That's as maybe, but a revamped PowerBook is on its way nonetheless. Meanwhile, an author in Singapore issues a $15,000 reward for his lost PowerBook, and Microsoft garners some grass-roots "Redmond Justice" support from the lifeforce-challenged...
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Making Titanium New Again (8/23/01)

My, my, my... is it just us, or is the plot getting awfully thick in here? At first we were half-joking when we suggested that Steve's official denial of new hardware product launches at the Apple Expo in Paris is open to interpretation, but now the signs are simply too overwhelming to ignore. iMac, shmiMac; we may not see a revolutionary new version of Apple's groundbreaking consumer desktop model until the following month, but we're now more sure than ever that September is at least going to bring us a minty-fresh new PowerBook G4 iteration. Technically, if all we're talking about is a speed boost and maybe some new build-to-order options, that's not actually the launch of a "new hardware product," is it? Clever Steve...

Consider the facts. First of all, the PowerBook G4 spec hasn't been touched once since the product's debut in January, so clearly it's due for a little sprucing up. Then there's the fact that Apple's current "Burning Desires" PowerBook promo (which offers customers a free external CD-RW drive) ends on September 3rd, hinting at an inventory-flushing maneuver to make way for the new gear. Next, consider the fact that Apple recently slashed PowerBook prices by hundreds of dollars to education customers, and is rumored to be doing the same in the general market within days. Put it all together, and we smell a revamped PowerBook cookin' up for a picnic sometime next month.

The question weighing so heavily on our minds, then, is this: just when in September can we expect these zippy new portables? Our own wacky fever-dreams seem to imply massive PowerBook price cuts starting the day after tomorrow. (Faithful viewer Ben Bussey notes that today Go2Mac is reporting the same thing as an "exclusive," claiming "you heard it [there] first." Hmmmm...) If that indeed comes to pass, then Apple would obviously be clearing out the channel in preparation for the new models. But what are we to make of the little birds chirping about Apple's plan to cut off its "Burning Desires" promo a full ten days prior to the original September 3rd end date? Well, if the birds are correct, then that implies the imminent price drops are real-- and presumably steeper than the cost of a free external FireWire CD-RW drive.

What we don't know is just how long Apple thinks the channel will take to bleed dry following these alleged price drops-- but we doubt it's longer than four weeks. So yes, we are banking on a new PowerBook at the Apple Expo, or at Seybold, or even sometime before. As for what these shiny new portables will be packing under the hood, well, only Steve knows for sure... but someone with a busy finger left us an anonymous message in the dirt on the AtATmobile last night: "500/667 MHz, 20-48 GB DISKS, DVD OR CD-RW (NO COMBO) -- WASH ME." Is it "real dirt," or just the work of some neat freak messing with our heads? You decide.

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Next Stop: Milk Cartons (8/23/01)

Meanwhile, not everyone in Macdom is anxious for a new PowerBook; at least one guy is desperate to get his old one back. How desperate? Well, how about "$15,000 reward for safe return" desperate? That's right, folks; if you're looking to earn a quick fifteen grand, consider taking up a brief stint as a PowerBook bounty hunter to start on a hard-target search for a "hapless author's" missing laptop, which he apparently left on a plane a couple of weeks ago. A Reuters article (forwarded to us by faithful viewer John Skittone) has more details.

Before you get too excited about assuming the title of Great Mac Detective, we should point out that unless you happen to live in or around the Singapore area, odds are you're going to have to make a hefty investment in travel expenses before collecting that reward. Evidently the missing PowerBook was "left on Flight SQ857 from Hong Kong to Singapore on August 11th," which makes things a little tricky for those of us Stateside. For our part, we here at AtAT are reluctantly willing to leave the search for this valuable PowerBook to Mac fans a little geographically closer to the scene of the disappearance.

As for why the owner is willing to shell out fifteen large to get his PowerBook back, we suspect it has less to do with his undying love for the Mac itself (someone who's that crazy about the hardware probably wouldn't ever let it leave his sight, let alone leave it on a plane; he'd be making googly eyes at it 24-7) and more to do with those "three manuscripts for books on business management" stored on the hard drive. Hmmm... sounds like the author's next book on business management is going to have chapters on keeping an eye on the capital equipment and the importance of backing up vital data.

Anyway, if you're itching to get on the case so you can collect that reward and use it to buy a six-pack of PowerBooks for yourself, unfortunately, no details are provided on what model PowerBook was lost. If you can scrape up today's copies of Singapore's Times and Straits Times newspapers, though, we're guessing those might include better descriptions of the missing portable in the "four-column advertisement" placed by the author's lawyer. Otherwise, the best you have to go on other than the Singapore Airlines flight number is the fact that said PowerBook "can be identified by a black on yellow start-up screen that reads 'Take Today Off.'" (Without his PowerBook or backups of his work, we figure the author is finally going to be taking that advice whether he likes it or not.) Happy sleuthing!

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Grabbing The Zombie Vote (8/23/01)

Man, talk about an unexpected "Redmond Justice" plot twist! Watch out, Justice Department and attorneys general; pursue your antitrust case against Microsoft at the risk of your own political careers, because the company has apparently managed to secure grass-roots support in its struggle from a vast, untapped segment of the U.S. population: the stiffs. You heard right, people-- it seems that dead people are moved enough by Microsoft's victimization by the bullies in the government that they're rising from the grave to write and send letters of protest. Wow, who knew that Windows was so popular among the deceased?

As pointed out by faithful viewer Nicholas Chapman, a Los Angeles Times article reports that letters in support of Microsoft "purportedly written by at least two dead people" arrived in the offices of Utah's attorney general a few months ago. Geez, how freakin' incensed do you have to be to write a strongly-worded letter chastising a government figure when you're dead? Indeed, we're starting to think that Microsoft leaked that toxic Ballmer video on purpose, in an attempt to kill off as many people as possible with the hope that the resulting corpses might then start writing their Congressmen about the evils of stifling innovation.

Of course, it's just possible that there isn't a groundswell of support for Microsoft among the U.S. zombie constituency, and Microsoft is actually faking its own grass-roots letters-- badly. If that's the case, then Microsoft has once again fallen prey to its age-old problem of lack of attention to detail. See, apparently the company once again tried to create the illusion of public support where there is none, and wrote a bunch of letters meant to look like they were penned by Fine Upstanding Citizens who believe Microsoft is getting a raw deal. The letters were "on personalized stationery" and used "different wording, color and typefaces" to look like they were written by a multitude of individuals across this great land and not by Microsoft.

Too bad they missed that whole "dead people don't write letters" detail. Well, that and the fact that multiple "independent" letters, while different overall, used some of the exact same specific phrases-- such common, everyday phrases as "strong competition and innovation have been the twin hallmarks of the technology industry" and "if the future is going to be as successful as the recent past, the technology sector must remain free from excess regulation." Yeah, that's statistically viable.

This sort of behavior is nothing new to Microsoft, of course, but at least this time around, they were a little smarter and sneakier. You'll recall that, in the past, Microsoft has secretly paid for newspaper ads supposedly placed by "independent academic experts" claiming that the "Redmond Justice" case was hurting consumers. The company has also placed ads that looked like pro-Microsoft letters to the editor written by private citizens, but which were actually written by Microsoft's own marketing department. Personally, as unlikely as it may be, we prefer the zombie explanation. At least it'd be something different from the same old Microsoft sleaze for a change.

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