TV-PGOctober 4, 2001: New PowerBooks are probably coming sometime this month-- but will new iBooks be joining them? Meanwhile, the rest of the PC industry gets a clue and prepares to ditch the floppy drive, and as far as the entry-level iMac goes, Apple decides to charge students and teachers more money than the rest of us...
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New 'Books All Around? (10/4/01)

A few days ago, we reported our psychic premonition that Apple is gearing up for one of those momentous press events sometime in the middle of the month, and that the star of that show will be none other than the long-awaited PowerBook G4 revision that's got all the road warriors drooling. Of course, they're mostly drooling blind, because no one except Steve knows exactly what sort of features that new titanium totable will boast-- but given that an improvement is a certainty and the existing PowerBook is already pretty droolworthy, we doubt that saliva is being shed in vain.

That's entirely a matter of opinion and speculation, however. For what it's worth, faithful viewer dzhim! points out that Mac OS Rumors has taken a crack at predicting the new TiBook specs, and if they're right, then there may suddenly be a whole lot less salivating when these systems go public. Granted, the use of an ATI RADEON Mobilty graphics processor is a welcome change for folks who like to frag their Quake 3 Arena opponents on the go, and the slot-loading DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive (at least in the high-end model) is definitely one of those "it's about freakin' time" features. Likewise, the hint that Apple may move to a standard 256 MB of RAM in its low-end configuration may be enough of a boost to quiet some of the grumbling about Apple's latest entry-level iMac only shipping with 64 MB. But processor speeds of 450 and 550 MHz? Yikes. Here's hoping that our own entirely unfounded vision of 500 MHz and 667 MHz is closer to the mark.

Aside from the new PowerBook, however, you may recall that we thought we saw a second product getting prepped for this press event, though we weren't able to see just what it might be. Sadly, we've received no more Cordeliaesque visions from the Powers That Be, although a couple of sites out there are hinting that Mystery Product #2 may in fact be a refreshed iBook. Mac OS Rumors includes a report from a UK reader who indicates that supplies of iBooks are shockingly low over there, and indeed, we're hearing a lot of the same from Mac fans on this side of the pond. His revelation that the iBook with CD-RW drive has been designated as EOL (End Of Life) in a reseller's inventory system doesn't imply a thing, however, since Apple pulled that model out of the retail channel waaaaaay back in May, turning it into an online-only special.

What might be a stronger clue is a report over at Go2Mac indicating that even the Apple Store is having difficulty shipping iBooks; one customer claims to have been told that his order was "unexpectedly delayed" for a couple of weeks, and Apple couldn't say why. That's still pretty sketchy as far as evidence of an imminent iBook update is concerned, but interpret it as you see fit. Personally, we're still skeptical of seeing speed-bumped iBooks this soon-- it's barely been five months, after all-- but maybe that's just because the PowerBook has gone nearly twice that long without being touched. If we gain any divine wisdom in the next day or so, we'll be sure to let you know.

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Floppies With Rigor Mortis (10/4/01)

"They called us MAD at the university!!" Say, folks, remember all the teeth-gnashing that ensued back when the original iMac was introduced in May of '98? We seem to recall a fairly massive faction of pundits insisting that Apple was doomed due to its shortsighted and egocentric decision to ship the product sans old-style serial and SCSI ports, and-- this was the real blasphemy, here-- even without a floppy drive. Even a sizeable percentage of Mac users were a little unsure about Apple's "no legacy junk" strategy with the iMac, although today, of course, few of us still think that Apple had made a mistake. The last time we used a floppy disk here at AtAT, it was to bait a PC Dweeb trap in our basement. (Pesky little critters...)

Anyway, the floppy drive has been dead for years, and it looks like the rest of the industry is finally starting to notice. Sticking neatly to the age-old script of "Whither Apple Goeth, The Industry Followeth (Eventuallyeth)," the rest of the PC manufacturers are finally getting ready to ditch their legacy technology as well. Faithful viewer Stephanie informs us that The Register claims to have gotten its mitts on "confidential Intel documents" in which Chipzilla entreats all PC manufacturers to eliminate "classic" serial ports, PS/2 ports, and yes, even the venerable floppy drive from all of their shipping systems by "the latter half of 2002." Gee, and only four years after Apple took the lead! We're just so gosh-darned proud of those guys... (snif)

You may want to stock up on canned goods and ammo before Intel's fiat is enacted, however; we anticipate a massive uprising among a certain portion of the Wintel-using population, and you might want to stay indoors when the riots ensue. We can picture angry mobs descending upon PC makers' headquarters carrying hastily-made signs bearing phrases such as "YOU'LL TAKE MY FLOPPY WHEN YOU PRY IT FROM MY TECHNOLOGICALLY BACKWARD, NEO-LUDDITE FINGERS" and assaulting the buildings with catapults that fire old dot-matrix printers and 9-track open-reel tape drives. Intel will have to call in the Bunnymen and the Blue Man Group Special Forces to quell the riots. It won't be pretty... but hey, progress rarely is. Meanwhile, how's that new Mac workin' out for ya?

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The Education Surcharge (10/4/01)

Okay, ever since that new entry-level iMac we hinted at last week finally showed up this past Monday, we've gotten a ton of mail from people asking us just what the heck is up with the pricing on that unit. Not the $799 that Apple is charging regular joes-- most people are okay with that. Rather, as faithful viewer Ross Mon points out, it's the fact that this exact same configuration is being sold in the educational channel for $849, thus introducing yet another Apple innovation: the Negative Education Discount. Yes, while the other iMacs are available to students and teachers for $50-90 off the standard retail pricing, the entry-level system costs fifty bucks more. That's a -6.3% savings. Such a deal!

We've let this slide for a few days, because we just figured that the folks responsible for updating the Apple Store for Education were a little bogged down. After all, this "new" entry-level iMac actually isn't new at all; Apple has sold the bare-bones config in the educational channel since July, while consumers were stuck going with the $999 model or higher. Since the education-only entry-level system has cost $849 ever since, we simply assumed that Apple hadn't gotten around to updating its price list and that the education model would drop to, say, $749 any minute. Now it's been three days, though, so we can't help but wonder whether that listed $849 price is the real deal.

If it is, then Steve's got one more thing to explain the next time he gives his spiel about how "education is in [Apple's] DNA." Tip to Apple: we're sure it's just a mistake (we'd check with you, but that's something journalists do), but you might want to fix it before the EDUCAUSE conference rolls around at the end of the month, or else you might have to field a lot of unpleasant questions from the attendees-- or, more likely, the same unpleasant question over and over again.

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