TV-PGNovember 27, 2001: Apple finally speaks out on the whole "free Windows for schools" Microsoft antitrust settlement proposal. Meanwhile, the company announces two more retail stores gearing up for grand openings this Saturday, and believe it or not, Apple really did attend an English Mac trade show last week...
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So Much For Buddy-Buddy (11/27/01)
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Despite Uncle Steve's reputation as the Mercurial One, and despite his infamous propensity to mouth off in an entertainingly (albeit bone-chillingly) colorful fashion when peeved and behind closed doors, the man is a master of holding his tongue when the press is listening. Oh, sure, there are occasional instances when he's lost it in public, but in general, when the microphones are live and the cameras are rolling, he's the very picture of charm and decorum-- regardless of how he might really feel. Take, for example, the tricky business of the Apple-Microsoft relationship; during the Stevenotes he's all smoochy with the comments like "Internet Explorer is my browser of choice" and "Office v.X is so good it's like clipping electrodes directly to the pleasure centers in your brain" or whatever. But then there's that whole thing about Steve kicking off "Redmond Justice" by offering $10 million to fund the Justice Department's efforts. Apple may need Microsoft, but that doesn't mean Steve's gotta like it. Or that he needs to keep smiling when the cameras are off.

Still, like we said, out of necessity the man is generally very pro-Redmond in his public guise, so we were a bit surprised to see the smile slip a little in light of the proposed settlement for a couple of hundred private antitrust suits against Microsoft. You remember that deal, of course-- the one in which Microsoft says, "Oh, we're so terribly sorry for abusing our monopoly power! Allow us to make it up to the world by flooding the schools with free copies of Windows and Office, thus extending our monopoly into new markets and getting the next generation hooked on lousy design and security holes; that'll teach us a lesson, boy howdy!" Faithful viewer Rooser tipped us off to an Associated Press article in which Judge Motz-- the big cheese who has to decide whether or not that proposal is fair-- is quoted as saying, "I have no idea what I am going to do. I want to hear from everybody."

Well, evidently Steve took that literally, because while he managed to keep mum pretty much throughout the entire "Redmond Justice" trial (he diplomatically refused to testify against Microsoft, instead sending Avie Tevanian to chronicle Redmond's misdeeds), suddenly he's got an opinion on this whole "Free Windows for schools" plan: "We're baffled that a settlement imposed against Microsoft for breaking the law should allow, even encourage, them to unfairly make inroads into education-- one of the few markets left where they don't have monopoly power." That's a pretty strong criticism coming from Public Steve. Of course, Private Steve's response to the settlement proposal probably made a Chris Rock standup routine look like an episode of Barney and Friends. We're guessing that anyone within earshot during that outburst filed for short-term disability right after their ears melted.

So there you have it: if you had no idea how Apple feels about Microsoft's proposal, we think we can safely classify the company's official stance as "slightly to moderately miffed." Steve, on the other hand, probably qualifies as "ready to tear someone's throat out with his teeth," but that's okay-- he's good at hiding it.


 
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You Want It, You NEED It (11/27/01)
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Our names are Jack and Katie, and we are Apple retail junkies. ("Hi, Jack and Katie!") We thought we had it all under control-- that first taste back in May was sweet, to be sure, but we didn't actually get addicted to these openings until the floodgates opened in August. Ever since then, we've been checking Apple's retail page obsessively, always wondering what lucky cities are next to be listed under "coming soon." And then there was last Friday: four grand openings in one day? Heck, even without actually being at any of them, that's a whole lot of retaily goodness for a Mac fanatic to handle. After the rush of having four of those puppies opening all at once, however, imagine the crash we felt when, for several days following that grand event, Apple's "coming soon" section remained completely and stubbornly empty. It was like there were bugs crawling on our flesh.

But just when we thought we were going to have to check into the Betty Ford Center for retail withdrawal therapy, Apple finally came to the rescue. The next two stores to feed our habit will be opening at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa and at The Market Common in Clarendon, Virginia. As usual these days, Apple's being coy about posting the actual opening dates, but faithful viewer Peter Thille forwarded us a note he'd gotten from Apple announcing that the South Coast Plaza store is slated to open on "Friday, December 1st, 2001." That fact is all the more impressive since there isn't a Friday, December 1st, 2001, but heck, what's a day or two between a pusher and his junkies? (Hey Apple, dealer rule number one: never sample the merchandise before doing anything important like writing a mass email announcement.)

Later on in the announcement, though, it's clear that the actual opening day is Saturday the 1st, and the doors are slated to open at 10 AM sharp. Meanwhile, faithful viewer Nina Tovish received an announcement about the Clarendon location, and it, too, is scheduled to go live at 10 AM on Saturday. That's this Saturday, kids, so if you live in either of those general areas, cancel the pancake breakfast and set the VCR to tape your cartoons, because you're going to want to haul your butts down to party with the other local Mac freaks. And don't give us any nonsense about needing to work on your holiday shopping instead; even if there's nary a Mac user on your list (dude, you need to find some cooler friends), everybody, and we mean everybody, can use a flexible USB-powered Kensington FlyLight™-- and the Apple stores stock them. Ooooh, bendy!

For those of you keeping score, after this Saturday the store count will be 24-- meaning that Apple will have thirty days in which to open just one more location in order to hit its goal of 25 by the end of the year. Doesn't sound hard, does it? We heard a rumor a while back that Apple's internal goal was actually to get 28 stores running by January 1st, and even that remains perfectly doable. Kudos to Apple for getting these things open on schedule; here's hoping that the holiday sales numbers are good enough that the company won't need a schedule to close them back down again, too. Now everyone get out there and spend. You know you want to.


 
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Anglophobia Conquered (11/27/01)
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We hadn't mentioned it earlier because, frankly, we were having a hard time believing it-- but we figure it's finally time to acknowledge that the impossible has happened. Yes, folks, last week Apple actually showed up to a Mac trade show in England. When we first heard, we were skeptical-- we even suspected Apple's extensive coverage of MacExpo 2001 to be an elaborate hoax; after all, faking video footage in this day and age is child's play. But now that we've received independent confirmation of Apple's attendance from MacUser (as well as from several UK-dwelling AtAT viewers), we find ourselves compelled to accept the fact that, yes, it really and truly happened: the Great UK No-Show Streak is finally at an end.

It's true: after scheduling and then cancelling appearances at UK-based Mac shows in 1998, 1999, and 2000, Apple really and truly managed to turn up at last week's MacExpo-- and, contrary to the predictions of Apple's top scientists, the universe didn't explode at the speed of light as a result. Indeed, most observers dubbed the event a rousing success; some 20,000 attendees flooded the hall, Apple sold every single iPod it brought with it, and several companies launched new and exciting products in the UK market. In contrast, a volcanic eruption didn't turn England into a giant smoking crater, an alien race didn't enslave mankind and make us all wear loincloths and spiky chained collars, and the Macarena didn't suddenly become "in" again. Given those facts, perhaps we'll see Apple at more UK-based shows in the future. Heck, maybe Steve himself will go sometime and give a keynote.

Of course, we're still a little on edge about this whole thing, because we still harbor a mild suspicion that we've slipped into an alternate universe or something. We keep half-expecting to go outside and discover that everyone's got Twilight Zoney pig faces, or maybe that the Cubs won the last World Series. But we're sure we'll get over it in time. Heck, Apple did.


 
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