So during the earnings call, the RDF-bereft Steve Jobs was forced to fall back on hints of future insanely-great Apple products in hopes of preventing further Wall Street carnage. Can you imagine how tough that must have been for him? This is, after all, the man who rates Mac rumors slightly above the Ebola virus (and slightly below UPN's Monday night line-up) on the Despise-O-Meter. And yet, there he was-- or, at least, a semi-passable facsimile-- dropping all kinds of maddening hints about the shiny new gear we're all going to get to spend money on over the course of the next year. Is faithful viewer The Professor correct? Is Steve the real "Worker Bee"?
Apple's biggest revenue-depressing factor this quarter was disappointing Cube sales, spurred by high prices, the mysterious random on-and-off bug, and the "Cube cracks" controversy. Steve maintains that there are no cracks in any Cubes, and that Apple has figured out how to make the "mold lines" far less noticeable. The bizarre spontaneous on-off behavior of some early Cubes has also been fixed; if your Cube is afflicted by that unnerving behavior, call Apple and they'll hook you up with a less disturbing replacement. And lastly, to counter the high-price problem, Apple introduced a $300 rebate on the Cube when purchased with any Apple display-- but that's just the short-term solution. Here's where Steve wanders into the usually-verboten "upcoming products" territory: as Macworld reports, the iCEO flat-out announced that Apple would release additional Cube configurations and "a lower entry-level price" this coming spring. Officer, arrest that man!
But what about the "megahertz gap"? First of all, can we just say that we're glad Apple is finally addressing this issue out in the open instead of pretending that the problem doesn't exist? Sure, Steve is still saying that a 500 MHz G4 "can be" as fast as a 1 GHz Pentium III, but at least he's acknowledging that, right or wrong, customers make purchases based on clock speed as much as anything. His plan to fix the problem? "We have been working closely with Motorola, and plan to offer Power Mac G4s with higher megahertz processors in the next six months. Our plan is to begin closing the megahertz gap during the first half of 2001, and to make substantial progress during the remainder of the year." So, straight from the mouth of Steve, there it is: the future of the Power Mac G4 line. It's not exactly earth-shattering news, but it's news nonetheless. And it's probably enough info that would have gotten a lesser Apple employee beheaded if it had been leaked by anyone other than Steve.
And what about this tantalizing news that Apple is planning to ship two more "iMovie-like applications" in the coming months? There was plenty of talk about creating software that would let customers do things on a Mac that couldn't be done (or couldn't be done easily) on a Wintel box, so we can assume that whatever Apple has up its sleeve, these "iMovie-like" apps are going to break new ground-- or try to, anyway. And while we haven't the foggiest idea of what those applications will eventually turn out to be, even that concrete yet vague glimpse into Apple's upcoming product plans is far more than usually escapes Steve's hermetically-sealed lips.
So why oh why is His Steveness still so maddeningly secretive about the handheld market? In response to analysts' repeated questions about whether or not Apple would ever return to the market it created with the Newton, the iCEO slipped back into clam-up mode, saying only "I really can't discuss that, I'm sorry." Sigh. And after all that talk about how he sees the PDA and cellular phone markets colliding soon... Well, take his "no comment" however you like, but now we're going to be dreaming of Apple-branded PDAphones for the next six months.