Fun With Regular Polyhedra (7/31/00)

Gosh, it's almost too much irony for a bleary-eyed Monday morning. (As if.) Remember all those iMac wannabes that copied the distinctive shape, style, and colors of Apple's smash hit consumer system? Remember how Apple's legal team swatted them down like just so many flies in a cheap diner? Felt good, right? Well, check this out: Apple's newest marvel of distinctive industrial design, the Power Mac G4 Cube, may soon be the target of a copyright infringement lawsuit from another company who claims it got there first. No fooling! Faithful viewer Jay Forde was the first to point out that our buddies at nabbed the scoop.

See, there's a company out there called Cobalt Networks, and it's got its own cube-- or, rather, its own Qube, which was released two years before Apple's latest artbox. Specifically, it's a seven-inch blue cube that runs Linux and is marketed as a dead-simple Internet server. How simple? So simple that it also beat Apple to the "no keyboard, no mouse" initiative that looms ominously in the Mac community's future-- but that's a whole different lawsuit on the horizon. For now, Cobalt's content to make rumblings about suing Apple because the Cube is too much like the Qube. "We will not sit idly by," said Steven DeWitt, Cobalt's CEO. "This is far too good an opportunity for us to grab lots of free publicity by piggybacking on all the press Apple's Cube is garnering." [Ed. note: It's possible that our sources got that last quote wrong.]

And who can blame Cobalt? It's obvious that Apple's just trying to fool potential Qube buyers into accidentally buying a Cube instead-- the two are almost identical, after all, as the photos in this CNET article prove. We're dead certain your average customer in the market for a Linux-based Internet server appliance couldn't tell them apart without a magnifying glass and detailed product literature. Plus, the Qube was first! Never mind that the Power Mac Cube isn't blue, is targeted at a completely different market, and actually comes with a keyboard, a mouse, expansion ports, and the ability to hook up a display-- it's a cube, dammit, and therefore a violation. In fact, we're so absolutely sure that Cobalt has an airtight patent on the shape otherwise known as the regular hexahedron, we didn't even bother looking it up. Apple might have had a snowball's chance in a blast furnace of winning this (potential) case had it, or some company that it had purchased, come out with a cubic computer a full ten years before Cobalt's offering... but unfortunately, Steve Jobs clearly lacked vision in this regard.

We've heard that Apple has recently contacted customers who pre-ordered a Cube to announce an additional three-week delay in shipping the goods; our sources report that Apple is using the extra time to pop the Cube's guts into a decahedral enclosure instead. Okay, sure, it's not a Platonic solid, but Steve hopes the ten sides will fit in with the whole Mac OS X concept. Besides, it's just a stopgap measure until Apple's lab gnomes figure out how to ship a four-dimensional hypercube...

SceneLink (2449)
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The above scene was taken from the 7/31/00 episode:

July 31, 2000: Irony of ironies: Apple's lawyers may soon be defending the company against a lawsuit from the maker of the Qube. Meanwhile, the MIA Sage commercial quietly reappears as if nothing happened, and rumors swirl of a new iBook arriving in time for fall...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 2450: It's Not Easy Being Seen (7/31/00)   Now you see it, now you don't-- but wait a few days, and hey presto: the absent one returns, none the worse for wear. Stupid magic trick? Well, sort of; we're talking about the vanishing act that Apple pulled with its Sage commercial last week...

  • 2451: The New Fall Line-Up (7/31/00)   Whoops, here we go again: the exact kind of rumor that always prompts a zillion opinion articles about how the Mac rumor sites hurt Apple for the sake of advertising revenue, followed by a kajillion counterpoint rebuttals arguing that the consumer has a right to know...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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