The Big FreeMac Letdown (9/1/00)

Hands up, who remembers the fracas? FreeMac originally announced that it would "give away" a million iMacs to "qualified individuals" who signed up for three years of EarthLink dial-up service. There were strings attached, of course, but overall, an iMac for $718.20 sounded like a steal at the time. These days, with $799 string-free iMacs just around the corner, it seems like a dated concept, but the point is moot anyway; this past February FreeMac's Jonathan Strum shut the concept down, claiming that Apple wouldn't let him give away those iMacs he promised. Steve Jobs publicly denied the allegations, calling Strum's claims "bogus," although Strum apparently had evidence to back up his story. In any case, amid lots of bitterness and ugly accusations of "bait and switch," turned into a scheme with same business plan, but instead of dishing up free iMacs, it's giving away "Internet appliances."

Now that you're up to speed, faithful viewer Galen Rutledge notes that is up and running-- and that the "Internet appliance" that replaced the iMac is, as he puts it, "butt-ugly." We tend to concur; take a gander at the Associated Press photo to judge for yourself. Go2Mac thinks it resembles a Color Classic, which may not be too far off the mark-- it's as if NadaPC (or, more accurately, Samsung, who apparently makes these things) wanted an Internet-friendly all-in-one design, but knew that copying the iMac was sure to incur the wrath of Apple's lawyers, so the older Color Classic was copied instead. Although the iMac's influence is clearly present in the name of this beast: the iCEBOX.

As for the NadaPC deal, it hasn't changed a whole lot from the original FreeMac plan. You still have to sign up for three years of ISP service, only instead of signing with EarthLink for $19.95 a month, you have to sign your soul over to NadaPC's own Internet service for $21.95 a month. And instead of "qualifying" for a partner bank's credit card, now you have to open a "no-fee checking account with CompuBank." And, of course, instead of getting a spiffy new iMac, you get this iCEBOX thingy. So let's see... for $799 you could get a base-level Indigo iMac and sign up with a free ISP like AltaVista FreeAccess, or you could commit to spending $790.20 for NadaPC's service, open a checking account, and take your iCEBOX instead. Having trouble deciding whether or not to blow the extra $8.80 on the iMac?

Granted, the iCEBOX does have some nifty features that the $799 iMac lacks. For one thing, it's also a TV. For another, you can play DVD movies on it. However, the screen is only nine inches diagonal (same as the Color Classic... hmmm...), so we have a feeling that watching the widescreen anamorphic version of Apocalypse Now on it might lose a little something. Oh, and did we mention that the iCEBOX isn't a general-purpose computer? Other than letting you watch TV and DVDs, all you can do on it is browse the web (we shudder to think what most modern web sites look like on a nine-inch screen) and send and receive email; forget about running Quicken or playing any games. Does that make the decision any easier? Frankly, we're wondering just what kind of person would commit to spend $790.20 on this "deal." Evidently NadaPC's going after the vast, untapped "mouth-breathing, slack-jawed troglodyte" market. Sure sounds lucrative to us. Say, we imagine that several of you signed up for more info back when FreeMac was still the promise. You probably received email from NadaPC detailing the new deal. Tell us, did you burst out laughing, or just throw up?

SceneLink (2522)
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The above scene was taken from the 9/1/00 episode:

September 1, 2000: Funny, there's no Cube commercial-- is Apple just shopping for the right song? Meanwhile, has been reincarnated as, but the deal's gotten a lot less interesting, and Intel's new chip is so huge it may need a whole new case and power supply...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 2521: In Search Of A Theme Song (9/1/00)   So there we were, your friendly neighborhood AtAT staff, logging some serious couch time last night. Our respective butt grooves had faded from the furniture during our week-long pilgrimage through the Midwest, and now that we're back, we're trying to remind the living room set who's boss by asserting our shared role as the reigning couch potatoes of the house...

  • 2523: That's One Mother Heat Sink (9/1/00)   Holy yikes; we all knew that chips from Intel are following a "bigger, faster, hotter" trend, but things are really starting to get out of control-- especially in the "bigger" and "hotter" categories...

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