TV-PGJanuary 8, 2002: It's been a day-- so what do you really think of the new iMac's design? Meanwhile, iPhoto is one kickin' app even for those without digital cameras-- provided they have Mac OS X, that is, and Uncle Steve lets fly a Dell barb entirely for our amusement...
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From the writer/creator of AtAT, a Pandemic Dad Joke taken WAYYYYYY too far

Lump-Stick-Rectangle II (1/8/02)

It's official: we've got a new champion in the "Mac Community Flamebait" category, and that's really saying something. Based purely on voluminous viewer feedback, people seem split roughly fifty-fifty over the design of the new iMac, but it's a pretty polar split-- much like Key Lime or Flower Power, people tend to love it or hate it, without a whole lot of middle ground creeping in there. The good news is that the people who love it really seem to love it a whole heckuva lot, because even our Key Lime diatribe didn't draw half as many death threats and insinuations about the species of our ancestors as yesterday's comment that the new iMac is a tad "blah" for our tastes.

As we reach for the Bactine, we fully acknowledge that death by a million flaming email messages is simply an occupational hazard we face on a daily basis, but we probably should have been clearer when making our point yesterday (or, more accurately, spectacularly failing to do so). While it's true that we aren't crazy about the iMac's new look (and we hope, for our stock's sake, that we're squarely in the minority on that front), that's purely a matter of opinion; the real nub of our gist was not about whether the look is "good" or "bad" at all, but rather that we doubt it's going to be as "catchy" as the original.

When the first iMac was unveiled, its style was almost viral in nature; within about a week, everyone on the planet knew what it was and what it looked like. Before long that blue-green space egg was a pop culture icon. It became a symbol, an archetype that was replicated all over the place. We saw representations of iMacs in comic strips, in jack-o-lanterns, in JELL-O sculptures, in plush collectibles. Don't forget all those iMac knock-offs that flooded the Wintel market. And eventually the iMac style permeated our culture so thoroughly that you don't have to look too hard to find rounded, brightly-colored, translucent vacuum cleaners, microwave ovens, and even George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machines.

So all we were trying to say is that the new iMac design isn't likely to be quite as viral-- we're not sure that it's going to glom onto the collective consciousness like the original did. That's not necessarily a bad thing, however; the metric people typically use for success in this business is how many computers one sells, not how many household appliances are modeled after said computer's design. In a year, no one's going to care whether or not there's a four-slot toaster that looks like the new iMac. (Well, we might.) The bottom line is going to be whether or not Apple has sold enough of them to keep the lights on and the cows fed.

And this is the important bit: yes, the original iMac sold very well to non-Apple users due in part to its extremely high-profile and well-known look-- because back in 1998, Apple didn't have a whole lot else to fight with. Sure, the G3 was a fast chip, and yes, the Mac still had its legendary ease of use, but unfortunately that sort of thing didn't really sell computers to average shmoes. Bright colors and translucent plastic, on the other hand, did. Today, though, Apple's got much bigger guns in its arsenal-- Mac OS X, a whole "digital hub" philosophy (and make no mistake, the new iMac's design reflects that-- a hub, with a display on a "spoke"), and a full stable of killer iApps that can sell the iMac on solutions instead of just striking good looks.

So on the one hand, we still aren't crazy about that new look-- at least, not so far. (We'll reserve final judgment until we get to see it up close and personal instead of just in photos; in person, Flower Power was a lot less offensive, and we actually liked Key Lime.) On the other hand, that really doesn't matter much anymore. Because if Apple plays this the way we think it will, it's going to be selling iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and iTools instead of "computers" anyway. And besides, it's well-known that we have atrocious personal taste.

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Another Reason To Upgrade (1/8/02)

Speaking of killer iApps, if we harbored any doubts that Apple would be able to sell a boatload of iMacs based solely on the existence of iPhoto, consider them long gone. Since we're not the type to turn down free software (or free just-about-anything-else, for that matter), we downloaded and installed iPhoto 1.0 last night, and what little we saw of it made us drool. Suddenly we're looking at our Canon Digital Elph in a whole new light.

To clarify, we're all digital-hubbed in, baby-- we automatically sync our iPod with iTunes, we use iMovie to edit footage from our camcorder, and we hotsync a Handspring Visor (in Classic, still, until there are AvantGo and Vindigo conduits available for Mac OS X). We watch DVDs, and soon we expect to burn our own. In short, we're kind of like that guy in "Middle Seat," only with better taste in music and a tad more consideration for those around us.

However, until now, plugging in our digital camera just fired up Image Capture-- which, don't get us wrong, is a nice little app. It transfers our photos natively, supports rotating the images, and can even build a web page of them. But then we still have to run Photoshop (in Classic, natch) to crop the pictures, fix red-eye, and all that fun stuff, and our photo files were always lumped together in the Pictures folder with cryptic filenames, which was a drag. iPhoto changes all that. And while we personally like to keep our snapshots digital, we know that most of the world is still craving prints-- so the ability to order Kodak prints of digital photos without ever leaving iPhoto is, in itself, going to sell a slew of consumer Macs.

Best of all, we've got great news for those of you with shoeboxes full of old snapshots and access to a scanner: not that it's any real surprise, but iPhoto lets you import existing picture files, so it's a terrific piece of software even for people without digital cameras. You'll be able to scan in your pictures however you normally do that, suck them right into iPhoto, and then take advantage of all those great features like being able to order a hardcover picture book of your scans. Finally, something to do with all those proofs from the Great AtAT Wedding of 2001!

If you haven't given iPhoto a try yet, we suggest you go for it-- but it's probably worth noting that iPhoto, like iDVD 2, runs only under Mac OS X. That's right; there is no joy in Mac OS 9ville. In fact, some of you might even suspect that iPhoto is being dangled as a carrot (or wielded as a club) to get people to upgrade, or buy new systems. (Gee, ya think?) But hey, you wanted one of those new LCD iMacs anyway, right?

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Perhaps He Missed His Nap (1/8/02)

We know that since this is a soap opera, lots of you are expecting a drama-drenched conspiracy theory about how Apple moved its customer start page from Excite to AOL Time Warner-owned Netscape a few weeks back in exchange for a glowing exclusive cover story about the new iMac in Time Magazine, thus finally explaining the real reason why Steve Jobs moved his keynote up a day. But to tell you the truth, we're pretty burned out on all this corporate intrigue, so we figured instead we'd just revel in the simple joy of a catty Steve comment instead. Sometime you just have to stop and smell the witty barbs, ya know?

So here it comes, courtesy of faithful viewer Andrea Parent. Andrea noticed that Steve talked to CNET last night after the big keynote, and amid lots of shameless promotion of the new iMac and iPhoto, Fearless Leader apparently delivered up this little gem: "Pretty much, us and Dell are the only ones in this industry making money. They make it by being Wal-Mart. We make it by innovation."

BURN!! Grammar aside, that's a snipe almost on par with the original Mike Dell remark that kicked off this whole feud in the first place lo these many years ago-- and we're not just saying that because we dislike Wal-Mart almost as much as we dislike Dell. Between this little zinger and those onstage quips about how Photoshop still isn't Mac OS X-native, Steve was clearly in a spicy mood yesterday. Was he just a wee bit cranky because Time Canada leaked the iMac cover story on its web site twelve hours too early? We couldn't say-- but we're content to leave the whys and wherefores alone for a little while and just enjoy the cattiness of it all. Be thankful for life's little pleasures.

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