Copycats Come Quickly (9/29/99)

You have to have one thing to the Wintel manufacturers; it takes a while, but they learn. Well, they learn some things, at least... For instance, you may recall that the recipe for the collective Wintel response to the iMac's original unveiling way back in May of last year was two parts snicker, two parts guffaw, a jigger of ridicule, and just the barest hint of dread. The dread was contributed mostly by a Compaq senior executive, who, in a rare moment of candor, was quoted as saying, "Am I worried? You're damn right I'm worried... We've got to play catch-up." Everyone else, though, shrugged off the iMac as nothing more than a doomed gimmick. And when the funky blue space egg finally proved the naysayers wrong by topping the charts, it took over a year for the first Wintel-based copycat to hit the shelves. (Incidentally, as far as we know, Compaq still has yet to announce or ship an iRipOff, indicating that they haven't caught up yet.)

Things are different now, though; having missed the boat on the iMac's runaway success, a few of the larger Wintel makers are poised and ready to jump on the iBook bandwagon sooner rather than later. The first homage (that's "homage" in the sense of "desperate marketing grab") arrived in the form of the Dell Inspiron 3700 series notebooks. These things are low(er)-cost, consumer-targeted laptops that come in two colors. Well, okay, almost two colors; Pee-Wee Herman knows that grey isn't a real color, even when you give it a pseudo-hip name like "Storm Grey" as Dell has done. But if you want an actual color from Dell, fear not; there's also "Tahoe Blue." However, the blue model appears to retain lots of "Storm Grey" in its components. As faithful viewer Todd Wheeler pointed out, the blue Inspiron looks like someone had the grey model and took a paint roller to it. Mmmm, attractive. On the other hand, at least it's a two-tone laptop, so that aspect of the iBook remains.

The latest, though, comes to us courtesy of faithful viewer Jerry O'Neil again. He pointed out a CNET article that claims IBM "will adopt one of the revolutionary advances in personal electronics-- colored plastic." (Note to CNET staff writer Michael Kanellos: nobody likes a smartass. Except for AtAT viewers, maybe.) IBM's foray into iBook forgery combines the bright hues of the iMac/iBook line with the modular stylings of the Powerbook 1400's "book covers" feature. The forthcoming "i" series of ThinkPads (we almost forgot; they stole the whole "i" thing, too) is targeted at-- you guessed it-- the consumer market, and "will feature snap-on colored covers" in "silver, metallic green, two kinds of red, and IBM blue." Hmmm, we seem to recall that Apple patented the idea of using inexpensive snap-on components to alter the style of a portable computer; here's hoping they gave IBM access to the patent in exchange for the addition of AltiVec to IBM's PowerPCs.

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The above scene was taken from the 9/29/99 episode:

September 29, 1999: Dell's not the only PC maker poised to ride the iBook's coattails to consumer portable success. Meanwhile, Western Digital reveals that up to five thousand Power Mac G4s may have hard drives that could blow at any minute, and Apple's lawyers are having a tough time stomping out Kihei image sites, as the photos spread virally across the Mac webscape...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 1813: Eewww-- Bad Caviar. :-P (9/29/99)   Western Digital, makers of hard disks galore, have posted an announcement that several of their "Caviar" model drives are being recalled. Apparently they've discovered a quality control "issue" that can make these specific drives "fail to power-up after six to 12 months of full-time use."...

  • 1814: "They're Everywhere!" (9/29/99)   Oh, man... you just know somebody at Apple is screaming his lungs out right about now, and that somebody is most likely Captain Steve. The release of several alleged Apple marketing photographs of the as-yet-unannounced "Kihei" sequel to the iMac qualifies as probably the biggest hole in the Silicon Curtain since Mr. Jobs returned to Apple and started plugging leaks...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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