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TV-PGMay 20, 1999: QuickTime 4 is pretty darn popular for software that's not even really out yet. Meanwhile, the iMac slides out of the top five for April, even though Apple's doing lots better than they were a year ago, and now you can use your Mac to look for alien life-- but don't overlook the obvious clues...
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From the writer/creator of AtAT, a Pandemic Dad Joke taken WAYYYYYY too far


 
Catching On Quick (5/20/99)
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How 'bout that QuickTime 4? Officially, it's still not even finished-- the version available for download is still a public beta. But that fact hasn't stopped plenty of interested media mavens from installing the pre-release software and having a blast. In fact, Apple just issued a press release claiming that QuickTime 4 has been downloaded over three million times since it was first made available a month ago. To us, that sounds like a pretty respectable adoption rate for technology that hasn't even reached 1.0 status.

The only thing that concerns us, frankly, is the comparative dearth of sites using QuickTime 4's live streaming capabilities. Based on what we've seen, QuickTime Streaming provides a better end-user experience than the competing RealVideo over both fast and slow connections, and despite Steve Jobs' assertion that the free Streaming Server is "attracting new 'Intercasters' every week" because it costs infinitely less than Real's solution, so far the only live QuickTime video feeds we've yet seen all originate from Apple's servers. And there's only so much BBC, Bloomberg, and HBO previews one can stand before going nuts.

But yeah, it's only been a month, and again, the software isn't even final yet, so we're not all that surprised that perhaps lots of semi-interested sites have held off; maybe they're just waiting for QuickTime 4.0v1 before they leap in. Now that Apple's made it public knowledge that there are over three million people using the QuickTime 4 beta, though, maybe those fence-sitters will decide to make the leap. Memo to Apple-- not that we're impatient or anything, but just ship it, already. What's the hold-up?


 
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Half Empty or Half Full? (5/20/99)
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Is this the end of a Good Thing™? Ever since the iMac burst upon the scene last August and left a Bondi blue blur on the retail computer sales reports, Apple's cute 'n' round little powerhouse has consistently held its own by remaining somewhere in the top five of best-selling systems. But that winning streak just came to a halt with the release of the April sales figures, according to PC Data; a CNET article notes that Bondi Blue iMacs ranked seventh on the April list, while the fruit-flavored models clocked in at number eleven.

But don't start writing that suicide note just yet-- whether this is a trend or a hiccup remains to be seen. Stephen Baker, a PC Data analyst, explains the iMac's dip in relative unit volume sales performance by pointing to Apple's fourth iMac overhaul, which replaced the 266 MHz G3 processor that powered the original fruit-flavored models with a speedier 333 MHz one. "There are always issues when you switch over. It's tough," says he. Other factors, though, such as the fact that the iMac costs hundreds of dollars more than each of last month's top five systems, must figure into the equation. Competition at the low end of the price range is getting pretty fierce; iMac customers get a lot for their $1199, but plenty of customers are perfectly willing to sacrifice style and ease of use to save a few bucks, whether through ignorance or sheer thrift. We hope Apple has some plan to counter this trend, and we really hope it doesn't involve building crappier systems and selling them for less money.

On the bright side, though, there's lots of good news for Apple in that PC Data report, too. MacChat lists the best ones; for one thing, Apple's doing a hell of a lot better than they were a year ago. Unit sales "more than doubled" when compared to sales in April of last year, which is especially encouraging since the overall PC market only grew 20.6% in the same time period; that should translate into higher installed-base market share over time. Apple overall is still the number three computer manufacturer when it comes to retail sales, trailing Compaq and Hewlett-Packard-- not too shabby. And in addition to unit growth, the average selling price of Apple's systems increased to $1369 last month, from $1306 in March-- so every system Apple sells is bringing in more revenue, while Compaq and HP are watching their average selling price decline. See? Plenty of happiness and light there. Now put down the noose and enjoy a nice beverage.


 
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Right Under Your Nose (5/20/99)
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It's definitely time to address an issue that many faithful viewers have raised time and time again over the course of the past couple of weeks, and it goes a little something like this: "Why hasn't AtAT mentioned the SETI@home project, now that a Macintosh client is available? Seems like such a thing would be right up your alley." For those of you who think SETI is a big shaggy humanoid creature rumored to inhabit the Himalayas and otherwise known as the abominable snowman, not quite (though the yeti is also right up our alley-- and now you know far too much about AtAT's collective alley). SETI is the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence, and the SETI@home client lets you use your Mac's extra processor cycles to download and analyze data collected by radio telescopes, in hopes of finding regular patterns that may have originated from a distant alien civilization.

Sounds cool, right? You can be part of a massive distributed computing effort dedicated to a particularly nifty goal. Whereas other projects of this type have focused on cracking encryption algorithms via brute force and offered the person who found the magic key some kind of cash prize, SETI@home plays for higher, though admittedly less well-defined, stakes. Think about it; if your Mac winds up proving the existence of extraterrestrial life, you'd earn a permanent place in the history books. Heck, your discovery might even prove to be a major turning point in the history of the human race, leading to contact with alien beings, the establishment of friendly interplanetary relations, and the ushering in of a new Golden Age. How do you like them apples?

So why hadn't we mentioned all this earlier? Well, probably because to us, the ultimate irony is the thought of people using idle processor time on their iMacs to help search for extraterrestrial life-- since the iMac itself is the most obvious evidence of the existence of aliens in our universe. Come on; the iMac is obviously the product of alien technology-- assuming it's not an alien life form itself. If you're so inclined, by all means, participate in SETI@home; it looks like fun. But let's not overlook the obvious, okay, people?


 
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Previously, on As the Apple Turns...

TV-PGMay 19, 1999: Want to prevent Sears from turning into another Best Buy? Then sign up to dig in and help. Meanwhile, Some Apple tech has a red face right about now, following the discovery of blatantly incorrect information in the Tech Info Library, and Macs may have played a much bigger role in creating The Phantom Menace than George Lucas will admit...

Tune in now!


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