TV-PGSeptember 17, 2001: Apple cancels next week's Apple Expo amid "safety concerns." Meanwhile, the company donates a cool million and a slew of iBooks to the families of emergency personnel who perished in last week's rescue efforts, and last Saturday's Tampa Apple store grand opening was a success-- next stop, Germantown, Tennessee...
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Open To Interpretation (9/17/01)

Oooo, we can hear the flame-laden arguments already. Sigh. Okay, folks, here's the Controversy of the Day: according to an official press release pointed out by faithful viewer Thu, due to the devastation of last Tuesday, Apple has cancelled the Apple Expo that was slated to happen in Paris next week. Sayeth Steve: "We're sorry to disappoint our users and developers, but their safety is our primary concern." There are, of course, several ways to interpret this announcement, which is why we're expecting a fair dose of healthy debate on the subject.

First, there's the face-value geopolitical take on things. Provided you can get past the standard "if we let them interrupt business as usual, then the terrorists win" rhetoric, you shouldn't be surprised if Steve is primarily concerned for the safety of the conferencegoers-- not to mention his own skin. Granted, last week's attack was on U.S. soil, not in Paris, but in light of brewing military retaliation, we wouldn't be a bit surprised if our government has told Apple that Paris might not be the safest place for a large and highly-visible American corporation to be next week. If the U.S. decides to flex its military muscles and innocent people therefore turn into "collateral damage," then a U.S. corporation abroad might suddenly find itself dangerously unpopular. Heck, maybe the French government even suggested that the show be cancelled, fearing trouble following a U.S. company onto foreign soil. Who knows? This is all just speculation, and all we can say for certain is that if Apple didn't have safety concerns, it would need to lay off the Reality Distortion just a little.

Then there's the logistical interpretation. Face it: air travel is a big stinking mess right now, and it's not likely to be much better next week. Steve may have his own jet, but we're guessing it won't seat a full conference staff, and traveling by commercial airline next week will be sketchy at best. And besides moving people, what about moving freight? From last Tuesday until this morning, your best bet for getting things from Point A to Point B was a wormhole in the space-time continuum or by strapping them to your back and walking. Even now, getting them there by air is still a little iffy-- better than last week, and better still next week, but iffy nonetheless. It's entirely likely that Apple just wanted to avoid the higgledy-piggledy altogether.

And, of course, let's never forget the bitterly cynical view: Apple already told us not to expect much at this year's Apple Expo, so why jump through hoops, spend a ton of cash, and risk the safety of employees and customers alike just to carry on with a show that was already going to be lukewarm to begin with? Indeed, faithful viewer Garibaldi (who has proven himself to be intensely psychic about these things) indicates that Apple may in fact be ever-so-slightly relieved, because aside from Mac OS X 10.1 (which, we hear, is coming along nicely), the company won't have anything else done enough to show-- not the long-awaited new iMac, and not even the refreshed PowerBook-- which was supposed to be ready in time for the Expo.

It's up to you to decide how you want to interpret this latest development, but one fact is resoundingly clear: when Steve said there would be no new hardware in Paris this year, he wasn't kidding. As for Seybold, which was also scheduled to happen next week, MacCentral reports that it's moving ahead as planned. Of course, MacCentral also reports that Steve will still be giving keynote speaker Phil Schiller a "satellite introduction," which hardly seems necessary now that the Paris gig was cancelled; indeed, we're thinking the odds are pretty good that Phil gets the day off and Steve takes the stage live and in person instead. And if so, at least he won't be jetlagged...

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Quiet Gifts Mean The Most (9/17/01)

"Our thoughts are with those who were affected by the recent tragic events." That's the message that's been posted to Apple's home page since last Thursday-- and indeed, it's not just a message, but the message; it's not stuck in a remote corner of the page, lost among flashy photos of new products or links to reviews. Indeed, it's all the more jarring-- and poignant-- that Apple's home page doesn't include one single image of a Mac; aside from the tab links and search box, the only thing on that whole page is a message of sympathy and a link to the Red Cross.

If you're so cynical that you see that message as more of a PR stunt than a sincere expression of sympathy, then perhaps we should point out that something else is missing from Apple's home page: any mention whatsoever of the company's financial donation. As pointed out by faithful viewer Dundee, MacCentral has confirmed that Apple is cutting a check for one million dollars to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which benefits "the families of the firefighters, police and other emergency response personnel who lost their lives." On top of that, Apple is also donating an iBook to each of those families with kids once the holidays arrive.

Now, think about it; if Apple were trying to capitalize on the PR value of a move like that, we'd expect a huge announcement on the company's home page, or at least a press release. But when last we checked, no mention of Apple's donation appears anywhere on the company's entire web site. (Here's hoping Apple doesn't prove us wrong in the meantime.) So we can only interpret Apple's gift in the spirit in which it was offered: as a gesture of sympathy, and the sincere extension of helping hand during some very trying times. Kudos to Apple for doing something genuinely noble-- and resisting the temptation to turn it into a crass marketing ploy.

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Bombers Into Butterflies (9/17/01)

If you were worried that, in light of recent events, last Saturday's Apple store grand opening in Tampa might have been a flop, that's perfectly understandable. After all, who feels like celebrating at a time like this? But we're happy to report that the opening at International Plaza was a shining success-- at least, it was if faithful viewer Daniel Swanson's dozens of photos are any indication, and everyone knows that pictures never lie. (Pictures plus Photoshop are another story altogether, but we're going to take a wild leap of faith and assume that Daniel has better things to do than painstakingly editing extra people into photos of a store's grand opening.)

According to Daniel's account over at MacCentral, the crowds were healthy, in spite of last week's tragedy and the storm that pelted Florida on Friday. He arrived at 5:30 AM, only to find five people already in line ahead of him. By the time the doors opened, Daniel estimates that there were a good 300-400 eager Mac fans waiting to get in and sample Apple nirvana. In a fitting departure from tradition, Apple's eighth store opened not to the bouncy rhythm of "Love Shack," but instead to the perhaps more timely and appropriate "Woodstock" by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. After all, what's an Apple store opening if not a festival of peace, love, and Macs?

So the retail machine just keeps on chugging along; the Tampa location is Apple's eighth, and as faithful viewer Simone Manganelli points out, the Saddle Creek one (in Germantown, Tennessee, home of signage laws only a mother could love-- a draconian neat-freak mother, that is) is slated to be Number Nine, if Apple's main retail page is any indication. Oddly enough, however, there's no link to a separate page for the Saddle Creek store, and no mention of an opening date... unless you happen to catch Apple's Hot News page when it's showing this particular graphic, which states that the Saddle Creek store will go live on "Saturday, September 29th."

In case you failed to notice, that's two weeks after this past Saturday's Tampa opening, marking the end of Apple's month and a half-long one-grand-opening-a-week streak. Worse yet, it's looking less likely than ever that Apple will meet its stated goal of opening twenty-five stores by the end of the year, but heck, if that's all you've got to stew about, consider yourself a tremendously lucky individual. And this way we've got more reason to look forward to 2002.

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