Big Fish Eat The Little Fish (8/16/01)

Speaking of corporate purchases, we've got one that's nearly a done deal, and man, it's a doozy. Faithful viewer The M@d H@tter was the first of dozens of AtAT fans breathlessly noting that beleaguered Be has finally found a buyer-- and it just happens to be beleaguered Palm. That's right, according to a CNET article, Palm is ready to turn over $11 million worth of its chronically depressed stock in exchange for Be's "assets and intellectual property." Whodathunkit?

"But AtAT," you so ignorantly ask, "how could Palm buying Be have even the slightest relevance to Apple?" Patience, grasshopper: you must apply the lessons of history. Perhaps you're too young to recall those dark days of 1996 and the Amelio Era; Apple had spent years developing Copland, its then-most-recent attempt to bring the Mac OS into the modern age. Copland boasted many of the features and buzzwords crucial to any modern operating system, but there was just one teensy little problem: it didn't actually work. Eventually Apple was forced to kill the project and go shopping outside for someone else's modern operating system in hopes of catching up.

At the time, ex-Apple dude Jean-Louis Gassée's Be looked like the likeliest match; the fledgling BeOS was modern to the core, built for high-bandwidth multimedia applications, and already ran on Mac hardware. A few trigger-happy media outlets afflicted with "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN" syndrome went so far as to report that the ink was already drying on the contracts and we'd all be running BeOS-derived Macs within a few years. What really happened, of course, was that Apple passed on Be's $200-something million offer (just for the OS rights, we believe) and dropped $400 million on Steve Jobs's NeXT company instead. The rest is history.

As for the Apple-Palm connection, well, even you young'uns should recall that Steve admitted to trying to buy Palm in its pre-IPO days back in '98. At the time, 3Com wasn't selling. Of course, these days Palm is public-- and its market cap is a relatively modest $2.27 billion, meaning that Apple could pretty much buy the company outright tomorrow and pay cash for it. And if Steve waits until Be's shareholders approve the buyout by Palm, Apple could pick up two companies it once wanted in one fell swoop; between owning a huge chunk of the PDA market and an operating system that'll make a handy core for a new handheld operating system, who could pass up a deal like that? Why, we bet Steve's reaching for his checkbook even as we speak...

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The above scene was taken from the 8/16/01 episode:

August 16, 2001: Motorola's slide continues, as the company announces plans to close another two semiconductor plants. Meanwhile, struggling Be finally found a buyer in nearly-as-struggling Palm, and Apple posts a developer build of Mac OS X 10.1 on its servers-- but not for long...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 3245: Ready To Close Up Shop(s) (8/16/01)   In this Age of the Deteriorated Attention Span, we're guessing that not many of you may recall a simpler time way back when Motorola's financial troubles constituted an actual plot twist on this show, instead of the status quo...

  • 3247: One Big Mother Download (8/16/01)   If you're a Mac OS X user who has been drooling nonstop ever since Steve took us on a test drive of next month's 10.1 release at the Expo, there are a couple of things we recommend that you do. The first is to get a mop, because you're making a really gross mess with that four weeks of saliva on the floor...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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