Time To Buy A Palm (5/16/00)

This is the way the rumor ends: not with a bang but a whimper. Or is it a whine? We've all been waiting for an Apple handheld ever since the Newton got Steved over two years ago. At the time, our fearless leader stated unequivocally that Apple would return to the handheld market in 1999; the closest thing we got was a six-and-a-half-pound laptop with a handle. So we continued to wait, as rumors of an Apple-Palm hybrid germinated, mutated, and resurfaced umpteen times in a fascinating array of different incarnations. We kept hope alive on a thin diet of hints and clues. And then Phil Schiller had to go and blow the whole thing by opening his big yap.

As faithful viewer Kevin Seconds noted, the San Jose Mercury News killed the dream when it published Phil's comments about how the Apple handheld rumors are "totally unfounded." Said he, "We are focused on the personal computer space, not the handheld space, and that's that. I hate to use these words, but there's nothing going on." In making this statement, Phil broke the corporate edict never to comment on rumors or unannounced products; suppose Steve's going to have to break out the Discipline Stick? Poor Phil. Everyone knows that his whole raison d'être at Apple is to be "Steve Lite." As such, he's probably learned to hate rumors just as much as the Big Kahuna himself-- but Steve knows better than to flap his gums about what Mac fans whisper around the water cooler. Okay, so Phil was frustrated; by whining in public, though, he may well have damaged the company's standing among those who were counting on a Newton replacement-- not to mention those analysts that were fully expecting Apple's future growth to rely heavily on the "appliance" market. We'll have to wait and see.

We'd be remiss if we didn't note that, in his role as "Steve Lite," we wonder whether Phil is really given full run of Apple's secret plans. Given all those reports of Apple-Palm development, can we really trust Phil when he says there's "nothing going on"? That's up to you to decide. Personally, we can imagine that Phil isn't in possession of all the facts. If that seems overly paranoid to you, you may recall that Intuit's Bill Campbell, a member of Apple's board of directors, didn't know anything about the iMac's existence until a month before the unveiling-- and that was only because Steve was forced to let him in on the secret in order to get him to reverse the decision to cancel Quicken for the Mac. Granted, Phil's hopefully closer to the real action than Campbell is, but Steve is one secretive little iCEO; it's not completely impossible that "Steve Lite" just hasn't been let in on any of the really big secrets. Should you have a burning desire to keep this rumor alive, that's your loophole. As for us, we suppose it's time to choose between a Palm VII and a Palm V with the OmniSky wireless modem.

It's always sad when a long-lived rumor bites the big one. The next thing you know, Schiller will publicly state that Disney isn't in negotiations to buy Apple. The big meanie.

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The above scene was taken from the 5/16/00 episode:

May 16, 2000: Phil "I Had To Go And Open My Big Fat Mouth" Schiller confirms our worst fears: the Apple PDA is nonexistent. Meanwhile, Apple demonstrates a dual-processor G4 that's literally twice as fast as a single-chip model, but cautions that it may not ship for another year, and an online look at Mac OS X DP4 reveals that the Desktop is back in a big way...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 2297: Just Ship It Already (5/16/00)   So the rumors about multiprocessor G4s were wrong, wrong, wrong. Okay, sure, Apple did in fact demonstrate a dual G4 at WWDC, but that wasn't a rumor-- that was a scheduled event, posted on Apple's own WWDC agenda, so don't start thinking that the rumormongers were thrown a frickin' bone...

  • 2298: The Desktop Lives! (5/16/00)   Ah, the nondisclosure agreement-- Silicon Valley's biggest inside joke. And thank heaven for the churning multitudes who are willing to toss their NDAs out the virtual window, because otherwise we'd have considerably less information on Mac OS X as a work in progress...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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