TV-PGDecember 17, 2001: We weren't wrong-- Apple's just early: as of today, the PowerBook G4 now boasts a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive as standard equipment. Meanwhile, several clues in some shareware scanning software (and a mention in a Hollywood movie) have stoked the flames of G5 fever, and Apple extends its "Crystal Clear Savings" promotion by a month-- what does this mean for the new Power Macs expected in January?...
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A Bit Ahead Of Schedule (12/17/01)

Ask and ye shall receive! So the bad news is that we were wrong last week when we mumbled something about Apple maybe finally sticking a slot-loading DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive in the PowerBook G4 at Macworld Expo in three weeks; the good news is that it happened today, instead. You gotta love near-instant gratification. Hey, if we say "maybe Apple will send AtAT $12 million in funding next month," suppose the check will show up on Thursday?

Here's how the whole combo drive thing evolved from an off-the-cuff prediction to a distinct reality over the course of just three days. On Friday, we floated the combo drive possibility as an educated guess. On Saturday, Think Secret (as pointed out by faithful viewer David Triska) reported that Apple had a combo drive TiBook "in the pipeline" and due for an introduction as early as "Monday or Tuesday." On Sunday, faithful viewer Travis Gee confirmed that MacWarehouse in France had actually added the combo drive TiBook to its online database. And today, just as we were struggling with the baffling ordeal of trying to register at to confirm that ComboBook sighting, faithful viewer Dart tipped us off to a slightly easier-to-reach and decidedly more reliable hint: Apple's home page.

So yeah, it's official: Apple finally managed to cudgel some poor drive manufacturer into cranking out a slot-loading combo drive thin enough to wedge into a TiBook; as such, the combo drive is now standard. Actually, it's more than standard-- it's absolutely mandatory, as the build-to-order options for the PowerBook's optical drive have completely vanished from the Apple Store. In other words, no, you're not allowed to downgrade to a DVD-ROM or CD-RW. For most people that's no biggie, since they probably like having as much functionality as possible-- though it's probably worth mentioning that the price of the otherwise-unchanged lower-end PowerBook just increased by $100 to cover the upgrade to combo-y goodness.

If you're feeling slightly deflated because this is just one fewer thing destined for a Stevenote introduction next month, relax. Think of it this way: with a perfectly good announcement venue just around the corner, Apple chose instead to spring the ComboBooks on us now. Sure, you could argue that Apple underestimated the size of its channel inventory and didn't want to lose a slew of PowerBook sales due to lack of product right when lots of customers are trying to get their year-end purchases in for tax reasons. On the other hand, it's much more fun to imagine that Apple has so much incredible stuff to show us next month, Steve decided that the new PowerBooks weren't exciting enough to make the cut and launched them now, instead. And if the ComboBooks are the "also-rans," just think of the wondrous sights we'll see next month...

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Incontestible G5 Evidence (12/17/01)

Speaking of next month's Stevenote, some people are saying "G4" and some are saying "G5," but pretty much everybody agrees that there's a new Power Mac waiting in the wings. We'd hazard a guess that most Apple-watchers now expect that a souped-up G4 will be beating at the heart of those mighty new Macs, based on Motorola's own PowerPC timetable (which hints that gigahertz "Apollo" G4s are far closer to shipping than any G5). However, as we've seen time and time again, optimism and wishful thinking can grow some mighty hope from even the tiniest scraps of evidence.

That's why the G5 zealots have fallen slavering on what appears to be an otherwise innocuous software download page and elevated it to near-sacred status. VueScan is shareware scanner software, apparently, which runs under Windows, Linux, Mac OS 8.x/9.x, and Mac OS X. In and of itself, this isn't particularly thrilling, although it is nice to see that Mac OS X users have a native scanning option while the scanner companies drag their feet on porting their own software. The bit that has people all worked up, however, is this line from the download page: "Please note that the shareware version of VueScan is disabled on PowerPC G5 processors."

Typo? Not likely, as faithful viewer Scott downloaded the software and found further references to "disabling" the software on the G5 in the documentation. Meanwhile, faithful viewer Steven Newler reports that the same page quoted above used to say: "Please note that the shareware version of VueScan is disabled on PowerPC G5 processors, and updated product and pricing information for these processors will be announced at a future date." The developers of VueScan apparently know a thing or two about the mysterious G5, and didn't keep as quiet about it as they maybe should have.

But if you think that's a security leak, whoever's in charge of the Apple-Motorola Joint G5 Top Secret Hush-Hush ZipLip Operation must be about two blood pressure points short of popping an aneurysm over what's going on in Hollywood right now. According to faithful viewer bRaD, it seems that the new movie "Kate & Leopold" (whose trailer is posted right on Apple's own site) features Meg Ryan's character openly talking about the G5 (and Mac OS 9.6!) on the silver screen for all to see. So there you have it: even ignoring the VueScan evidence, this movie tie-in constitutes actual third-hand information from a big-screen fictional character. What more proof could you possibly need?

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Sudden Promo Extensions (12/17/01)

Holy Hannah-- just when we were beginning to lose all hope, faithful viewer Greg Roberts confirms that Mac OS Rumors is back! Well, sort of. The site is at least finally reachable, and serving up real English words and sentences. There is, however, no new actual dirt (though that's supposed to be remedied shortly), and more worrying is the baffling array of time and date stamps present on the home page. Supposedly the site was last updated on "Monday, December 18th, 6:14 PM EDT," which is startlingly wrong on a number of levels: it appeared hours before 6:14 PM Eastern, "EDT" designates Daylight Savings Time which isn't observed in winter, and today just happens to be Monday the 17th-- the next Monday, December 18th doesn't occur until 2006. But we're sure the MOSR team will eventually find a way to negate the effects of Apple's Time Distortion Ray and get back to the industrial-strength dirt-dishing long before the next Macworld Expo.

We just hope it happens soon. We actually wandered over to MOSR in hopes of gaining some insight into potential delays which might derail the Power Mac G4/G5/G[whatever]'s widely-expected debut during next month's Stevenote. See, we were squarely on the "it's coming in January" bandwagon with the rest of you, but now we're not quite as certain. Surely you recall Apple's "Crystal Clear Savings" promotion, which grants customers up to $500 back by mail when they purchase a Power Mac G4 together with any Apple display? Well, faithful viewer Jared just noticed something interesting-- and a little unsettling-- about that sweet little deal: whereas it used to expire at the end of this year (i.e. about a week before the Expo), as of today it's suddenly been extended until January 31st, 2002.

That doesn't necessarily mean anything, but it could imply that the new pro desktops aren't going to be ready in time for a January Expo introduction, and that Apple is now planning to hold off until February, possibly at the Tokyo Expo. On the other hand, since the promotion specifies the purchase of a 733, 867, or dual-800 MHz G4, it's still completely possible for Apple to introduce new G4s at higher speeds (or even G5s) without screwing up the promotion; it'll simply turn into a way to get the older machines out of the channel after the new systems are introduced, instead of before. Still, we could use a little reassurance, here... and since AppleInsider's return has so far turned out to be a single new article followed by two weeks of zilch, we're hoping that MOSR may be the one to provide it. Somebody set our minds at ease!

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