TV-PGMarch 2, 1998: Cloner Umax dares to miff Apple by driving six-slot G3 systems through a loophole the size of Kansas. Meanwhile, Microsoft continues in its kinder, gentler persona by loosening its chokehold on ISPs at home and abroad, and Reality prepares for a comeback within the week...
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Think Loophole (3/2/98)

As reported in a CNET article, last remaining Mac OS clone vendor Umax has found it necessary to think devious in order to remain competitive with Apple. Since Apple won't allow Umax to ship G3-based machines, Umax is shipping the same old 604e-based models... with a customer-installable Newer Technologies G3 upgrade card in the same box. That's a loophole worthy of "Redmond Justice," and we're damn proud of Umax for hatching the scheme. (Apple, on the other hand, may be just slightly less enthused.)

This strategy, while not entirely unique (clonemaker PowerTools shipped the first G3 systems on the market by preinstalling upgrade cards in its 604e-based systems, before they got shut down by Apple's alleged anticompetitive muscle), does allow Umax to ship something that Apple lacks in its lineup right now: a six-slot G3 system. And we know for a fact that the installation of the G3 upgrade card is trivial, having had the honor to drop a 250 MHz G3 card into a Powermac 9500 a few weeks ago; the whole operation took maybe fifteen minutes, and that included disconnecting all the cables, pulling the box out from under the desk, and digging through two years worth of dust to find the motherboard (none of which will slow down someone installing the card into a shiny new Umax clone fresh out of the box).

Sniff... Sniff... Do we at AtAT detect the faint odor of "last ditch attempt to squeeze as much out of this market as possible" emanating from this latest tactic? After all, it seems unlikely that Umax will be able to persuade Apple to extend its Mac OS license after this latest move. We have a feeling that Umax had written off its chances anyway, given Steve Jobs' anti-clone stance, and now no longer cares about alienating Apple, given that they'll end up locked out of the market soon when their Mac OS license expires in July.

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Gimme a Reason, Punk (3/2/98)

The new kinder, gentler Microsoft again emerges in time to avoid more sticky entanglements with the U.S. Department of Justice. This time, the software company launched a pre-emptive strike by voluntarily relaxing their contracts with twelve U.S. internet service providers, while doing the same with thirty European providers in order to dodge further anti-trust attacks by the European Commission. (Hey, why not kill two birds with one stone?) A Reuters story has more.

Microsoft's original agreements with the ISP's required that the service providers tout Internet Explorer exclusively to their customers, though they were free to provide other browsers upon request. (Gee, thanks.) Microsoft now allows the ISP's to promote competing browsers alongside IE, but not more than they promote IE.

It seems like Microsoft learned something from the ongoing "Redmond Justice" debacle, in which they suffered a significant amount of negative PR after they fought tooth and nail against allowing Wintel manufacturers to ship Windows 95 systems without Internet Explorer. When they finally relented, they found that none of their licensees were unbundling IE anyway. The DoJ has recently been sniffing around Microsoft's agreements with ISP's, and by loosening the restrictions in their contracts now, they can avoid the potential anti-trust lawsuit entirely, with probably zero effect on IE's popularity. Hey, no one ever said they were stupid.

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Return to Reality (3/2/98)

Good news for the rumor junkies among you (AtAT included): MacNN Reality has announced that they will be back in action "within the week." If you've been paying attention recently, you know that Reality shut themselves down following a fracas with Greg Landweber, the developer of Kaleidoscope, who took umbrage with Reality's unauthorized posting of screenshots of the upcoming Kaleidoscope 2.0. Things got well out of hand when some members of the Kaleidoscope mailing list, upset with Greg's decision to shrink the team of beta testers following the leak, decided to launch a spam campaign targeted at MacNN's sponsors.

The parties on both sides of the misunderstanding have apologized, and Reality has clarified several points about how they have nothing against Greg or his software. Furthermore, they state in no uncertain terms that their shutdown was entirely voluntary, and did not come from MacNN. They have asked for all interested readers to "forgive and forget," and not to hold a grudge against Greg.

All in all, Reality's return is great news for those of us who have relied on them for a steady stream of semi-illicit information about the Mac world. We can hardly wait for them to get back online.

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