Microsoft: Party Poopers (7/16/02)
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This is it, people: Keynote Eve. This is the night when all good little Mac enthusiasts drift off to sleep with visions of 20 GB iPods dancing in their heads, as they pray that Santa Steve won't pass them by just because they were once careless enough to ponder the plausibility of an iMac with a 17-inch screen without first taking the precaution of donning a tinfoil hat to block Steve's thought-reading wavelengths. But any Mac users who aren't silently spirited away in the night by Apple's elite Anti-Speculation Blacklist Enforcement Unit will doubtless enjoy the heck out of themselves come tomorrow morning, when Steve takes the stage, works his mojo, and unveils wondrous gifts for everybody. Well, everybody with a decent credit rating and some disposable income, anyway.

So leave it to Microsoft to cast itself as the Macworld Grinch, looking to step all over everyone's buzz. You may have noticed that the long-running MPEG-4 licensing tussle was finally just resolved, with MPEG-LA apparently agreeing to institute a flat-fee licensing option and waive fees entirely for broadcasters with fewer than 50,000 subscribers a year. Not at all coincidentally, QuickTime 6 is now (finally!) officially out, and we expect that snazzy demos of the new media architecture will figure heavily in the Stevenote. So what did Microsoft do? Well, according to CNET, on the very same day, Redmond launched a press salvo about Windows Media 9 Series, its own next-generation media architecture. Subtle, no? And isn't the timing of the announcement interesting, considering that Windows Media 9 won't even hit the public beta stage until September 4th? Hmmmm...

But wait, it gets better. Everyone knows that Jaguar, the upcoming release of Mac OS X that will probably wind up being branded 10.2, will almost certainly chew up a ton of screen time during the Stevenote; since it's due in "late summer," the odds are pretty good that Steve will even dish us up a solid release date. If 10.1 was the update that made Mac OS X usable, Jaguar is the one that will make it positively sparkle. It's a big deal. And what does Microsoft do in these days just prior to Jaguar's release? Why, according to faithful viewer iconmaster, it goes blabbing to the Wall Street Journal about how it needs to "reassess whether to continue doing business with Apple." According to the WSJ, Microsoft "blames Apple" for weak sales of Office v.X, citing the lack of a "concerted effort to promote Mac OS X." Because of this, Microsoft actually hints that it might bail on the whole Office v.X thing in 2004-- unless sales pick up.

Pssst... hey, Redmond... if you want to sell more copies of Office, here's a subtle clue: try making it cost less than a complete deluxe Whirlpool dishwasher. Or are you, as the conspiracy theorists opine, intentionally pricing it out of the market to give you an excuse to stop supporting a competing platform? Because we really just have to wonder about a company who can't understand why people who are struggling to shell out $1099 for an entry-level eMac aren't then plunking down an extra half a grand for a second productivity suite (AppleWorks being included). If this professed disappointment in the sales figures isn't due to utter cluelessness and being profoundly out of touch with the average consumer bank balance these days, then it's all part of a fiendishly clever and sinister plot to terminate the Mac platform by 2007. Or something.

But we digress, albeit slightly. For what it's worth, faithful viewer David Hansen notes an eWeek article in which Apple's Phil "The Man" Schiller goes on the defensive, noting that 10% of Apple's installed base is now running Mac OS X, with 20% targeted by the end of the year; Microsoft making vague threats and sowing the seeds of doubt about Apple's future (and thinly disguising it all as "concern") just prior to the Expo... it's just so predictable, isn't it? You have to respect a company who always acts in character. Between the timely Office threat and the QuickTime thing, does anyone else get the feeling that Microsoft is maybe feeling a mite... nervous? Or at least miffed about this whole "Switch" campaign. One thing's for sure-- relations between Apple and Microsoft have definitely been better. It's going to be interesting to see how this whole thing heats up. We'll be over here, huddling in this trench.


 
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The above scene was taken from the 7/16/02 episode:

July 16, 2002: Apple hits the analysts' estimates-- just barely-- amid a slew of slightly worrying declines in revenue, gross margins, unit shipments... you name it. Meanwhile, Microsoft looks to spoil the Macworld Expo fun by pre-announcing products months in advance and making noises about abandoning the Mac platform, and rumors continue to swirl about the imminent introduction of an Apple-branded personal video device tomorrow, but we wouldn't get our hopes up too high if we were you...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 3735: The Expected Profit, But... (7/16/02)   Welp, the numbers are in-- and surprise of surprises, Apple didn't totally leave a big, smoking crater where its solvency once was! According to the official press release, the company scored a quarterly profit of $32 million, directly in line with the analysts' expectations...

  • 3737: iTiVo and Wishful Thinking (7/16/02)   So what does Apple have waiting in the wings for tomorrow's shindig? Well, there's been a lot of reasonably believable speculation flying around out there, with stuff about 17-inch iMacs, 20 GB iPods, iTools turning into ".Mac," a solid Jaguar release date, and more...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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