TV-PGNovember 21, 2001: Phil Schiller notes that Apple's full transition to Mac OS X will conclude next March. Meanwhile, word on the street is that the iPod is a hot seller, and may get hotter before the holidays are through, and Apple announces two new promos for customers who like to get checks and merchandise in the mail...
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Dr. Jeckyll And Dr. Jeckyll (11/21/01)

Reality check: as much as we love Mac OS X (particularly now that the advent of version 10.1.1 means the system actually runs rather than hobbles), it's still not "the" face of the Macintosh. True, Mac OS X is preloaded on every new Mac and has been for six months, now, but the fact of the matter is that when those sparkly new Macs are pulled from their boxes, plugged in, and powered up for the first time ever, their owners will still find themselves face to face with Mac OS 9 in all its Platinum glory. Aqua-y goodness is just one quick trip to the Startup Disk control panel away-- but most novice users are going to stick with the hand they're dealt.

And, for the most part, well they should; Mac OS X compatibility continues to grow healthier with each passing day, but right now there's still a ton more software and peripherals that work with Mac OS 9 and not Mac OS X than vice-versa. Until the phrase "Mac-compatible" on a software box or a video card means "Mac OS X-compatible," Apple's going to have to ship its systems running Mac OS 9. So the question that's been on everyone's minds since the Aqua Revolution last March is this: when can we buy a new Mac, take it home, start it up, and be greeted by a Dock instead of a Control Strip?

For a company that has repeatedly assured its customers and developers that it's not pursuing a dual-OS strategy, Apple sure seems to be schitzoid on the operating system issue. The last time we walked into an Apple retail store, every Mac we looked at was running Mac OS X; every Mac that Apple sold that day, however, was configured to boot into Mac OS 9. There's sort of a Jeckyll-and-Hyde thing going on, except that since both operating systems are pretty spiffy in their own respective ways, it's more of a Jeckyll-Jeckyll arrangement. (Mr. Hyde, meanwhile, hails from Redmond.)

Some of you may recall that we got all indignant with the San Jose Mercury News last July for reporting that Mac OS X wouldn't be Apple's default operating system until April of next year; now that estimate almost seems optimistic. See, at the time we were operating under the deliriously naïve delusion that Mac OS X 10.1 would magically fix every problem under the sun, from lack of DVD playback and glacial window resizing to cancer, world hunger, and the startling increase of cat juggling. We failed to reckon with the decidedly un-speedy pace at which applications, drivers, etc. are being adapted for Mac OS X compatibility, so these days another five or six months before Mac OS X really hits the mainstream now actually sounds pretty good to us.

If you've always figured that April was a realistic-- even aggressive-- target, we've got some good news: according to the Wall Street Journal, Apple chief marketing veep Phil Schiller states that, with "over 1,900 native applications" now shipping (including Microsoft Office), the Mac OS X transition is "on track to be completed by March 2002." We're not sure exactly what constitutes the end of the "transition," but we're reasonably certain that when it's done, new Macs aren't still going to be booting into Mac OS 9. But March is only four months away, so we don't have long to wait to find out. Viva la revolución!

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The iPod: iStockingStuffer (11/21/01)

We mentioned yesterday that we didn't have any hard numbers on how well the iPod is selling, and we still don't-- but the same Wall Street Journal article which reports that Apple is planning to complete its transition to Mac OS X by next March also quotes jolly old Phil Schiller as saying that sales of the "breakthrough" digital music player are "looking very good." Evidently Phil didn't have any numbers either, but he insists that his own tour of stores stocking iPods revealed that a unit is being sold "every couple of minutes." (We picture him sitting there with a stopwatch.) And you know what Teacher says: every time an iPod is sold, an angel gets his wings. Attaboy, Clarence!

Meanwhile, Phil's not the only one sniffing around trying to get a handle on the iPod's popularity. Think Secret has amassed some more anecdotal data from a recent grilling of channel sources, and the buzz on the iPod sales-wise is pretty nifty; "one independent Mac retailer describes them as 'flying off the shelves.'" We're going to assume that's just an expression meaning "selling very quickly," and not a report that iPods are literally taking flight around the store, perhaps to the sweet strains of Madonna's "Ray of Light." ("Awright, who stacked the iPods next to these copies of Windows XP?!") In actual Apple retail stores, the iPod is reportedly enjoying "relatively good sales," although said sales are "drastically missing expectations." This isn't necessarily incongruous, nor is it the first time we've heard it implied that Apple retail sales goals are set so unrealistically high that they're apparently conceived by a random number generator on crack.

Anyway, minus any real sales figures, that's about all we can tell you. Despite its hefty $399 price tag, though, it's clear that the iPod is shaping up to be one of this holiday season's rising stars. Sure, it's not likely to inspire consumer violence and mayhem like the "Tickle Me Elmo" Riots of '96, given its higher price and its drastically smaller target market (i.e. "music-loving owners of FireWire-enabled Macs" versus "every whining kid on the planet under the age of ten with parents who try to buy their love"), but the buzz is out there. Faithful viewer Jeffrey Piercy even noted that the iPod is mentioned several times in a Slashdot thread soliciting opinions about the best geek gifts this year. Of course, every mention of the iPod there eventually devolves into a Mac-vs.-PC/"Apple sucks" flamewar-- after all, this is Slashdot we're talking about, here-- but if even hardcore geeks are salivating over the iPod, that bodes well for its success this holiday season. Ho ho ho!

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It's ALWAYS 8 To 10 Weeks (11/21/01)

Trade with your friends; collect them all! Maybe you're the type who collects stamps, or coins, or bottle caps à la Bert from Sesame Street. Us? We collect Apple sales promotions. Imagine our glee, then, to find that there are two new ones to stick in the scrapbook today! (And by the way, yes, we know we have no lives, so you needn't bother telling us. What tipped you off, genius, the fact that we've been producing an Apple-themed 'net-based soap opera for over four years now?)

The first new promo is perhaps a bit surprising: dubbed "Play More, Pay Less," it offers customers a $100 mail-in rebate on the purchase of any new iBook. Why is this surprising, you ask? Well, for one thing, it's been widely reported that the iBook is already Apple's best-selling Mac by far, so juicing its sales numbers (instead of, say, the iMac's) seems slightly misdirected. Plus, we seriously doubt that yet another iBook revision is in the cards for January after last month's feature boost, so we can't imagine that this is about clearing inventory. For whatever reason, though, if you've been toying with the idea of buying an iBook, doing so before December 31st will get you a check for a hundred bucks-- some eight to ten weeks down the line.

The other promo may strike you as slightly less dramatic, as it's purely a software deal-- but it's still worth mentioning. Perhaps as an effort to keep sales of Apple's more modest productivity suite from dropping through the floor now that Office v.X is available, "Work Has Its Rewards" is a promotion that grants AppleWorks 6.2 customers a free copy of The Sims or (for those who already own The Sims) The Sims House Party Expansion Pack. We suppose the idea is that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but since that free game isn't going to arrive for (all together, now) eight to ten weeks anyway, Jack can expect to be a very boring guy for at least another couple of months. Still, though, free game by mail; always a nice thing. That concludes today's broadcast of Promo Playhouse. Now get out there and spend.

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