TV-PGOctober 16, 2003: Apple's dog-and-pony show leaves so much music-related awesomeness in its wake, five are dead and thirteen are injured. Meanwhile, rumors begin to take shape about Apple's next massive overhaul of the iMac's industrial design, and early benchmarks of the G5-powered "Big Mac" supercomputer hint that it might just be the second-fastest in the world...
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From the writer/creator of AtAT, a Pandemic Dad Joke taken WAYYYYYY too far

Failing To Shake A Stick (10/16/03)

Wooooo, what an event, huh? Jobs at the top of his form, a slew of incredible new music-related products and services, a sequined Phil Schiller on a pony... was that just amazing, or what?

No, seriously, was it? We didn't see it. Or, more accurately, we're not going to see it-- truth be told, we're writing this ten minutes before the show's supposed to start. But we figured we might as well get a head start, since at least some announcements are foregone conclusions thanks to the ever-accommodating Apple web staff. As faithful viewer Troy pointed out, even the gnomes who handle Apple's UK site are starting to get sloppy with the secrets; The Register reports that the UK Apple Store kindasorta accidentally posted a graphic to its front page touting the iPod's "Hot accessories" and verifying that the device "now records your voice and stores more than tunes."

Attention, students: today's hot lunch will be "British Web Gnome on a Stick," with a side order of "No, No, Please, Not the Flamethrower AAAAIIIIEEEEEEEEEEE." Dessert will be JELL-O with bananas in it.

Okay, head start's over, and now we're all up to date on today's nifty new announcements. Quite a haul, eh? Let's get the leaked stuff out of the way, first: as expected, voice recording and in-the-field photo storage are now possible-- with inexpensive accessories made by Belkin. The iPod Voice Recorder has a microphone and speaker and costs $49.95; the iPod Media Reader accepts CompactFlash, Secure Digital, Smart Media, Memory Stick, and MMC storage cards, preserves "film rolls" when you transfer in your photos, syncs with iPhoto, and costs $99. Pair either of 'em up with a 40 GB iPod and you can store up to 670 hours of recorded audio or 20,000 digital photos in your pocket. (Provided you don't care about anything as frivolous as listening to actual music, of course.)

Next, let's tackle iTMS: The Next Generation, which has so many new features that if you're not really careful, your braincase may melt. Audiobooks from Gift certificates. Music purchase allowances, so you don't have to give your kids the family credit card number. Artist playlists. New sorting options. And, of course, full Windows compatibility. Oh, and did we mention an exclusive partnership with AOL, as rumored long ago in an episode far, far away? Talk about an instant customer base. No, really-- talk about an instant customer base! Do it! NOW!!

Okay, that's enough. Hey, how about some numbers? Everybody likes numbers! Here are some neat ones:

  • Market share of the iPod: 31%
  • Rank of the iPod in unit sales: 1
  • Rank of the iPod in revenue sales: 1
  • Market share of the iTMS among legal music downloads last week: 70%
  • Number of iTMS songs sold per week: 600,000
  • Number of indie labels selling music via the iTMS: over 200
  • Number of audio books now available via the iTMS: 5,000
  • Smallest iTMS gift certificate available: $10
  • Largest iTMS gift certificate available: $200
  • Number of songs available in the iTMS at launch: 200,000
  • Number of songs available since Apple has been adding music like a Meatloaf album every frickin' week: 400,000
  • Number of songs Apple wants to sell by April, 2004: 100,000,000
  • Number of AOL subscribers who will soon be able to help with that: 25,000,000
  • Number of minutes before Harper's Index sues our butts into oblivion: about 30

And then, of course, there's the news that Apple is teaming with Pepsi on a promotion by which Pepsi drinkers will get free song downloads at the iTunes Music Store. (Is that enough to get the AtAT compound to switch from our usual Coke products? Nnnnyyyaybe.) Apparently 100 million bottle caps will be imprinted with a claim code that allows a free song download. The irony is not lost on faithful viewer Ryan Schroeder, who notes that, despite having ridiculed Sculley's PepsiCo gig back in the '80s, Jobs has now apparently taken over the guy's old gig of selling sugared water. You can't make up stuff like that!

Well, actually, yes, you can. In fact, it's pretty easy-- we do it all the time. But still, Jobs selling Pepsi, right? Ha ha! Great stuff!

Anyway, that's all she wrote, other than several recording artists appearing live via iChat AV to add to the hype (in particular, Bono showed up to claim that he doesn't always "kiss corporate ass," which is technically true because we think there was one time back in the early '80s when he blacked out and his lips came off for about twenty seconds or so), and a live-on-stage performance by Sarah McLachlan. But that's all just window dressing for what amounts to one simple truth: Apple is so going to totally smoke every other music download service out there. Seriously, it's going to be a bloodbath. Quick, roll up your pant cuffs!

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What Are YOU Looking At? (10/16/03)

Whew... okay, now that the real, announced music stuff is out of the way (and we can all rest assured that the iTMS-iPod tag-team will crush any competitors underfoot while laughing at all those foolish enough to challenge its irresistible might), what say we cleanse our palates with a refreshing scoop of non-music-related unsubstantiated rumor and speculation? After all, too much exposure to hard fact leads to iron-poor blood and, occasionally, rabies. It's really best not to risk it.

It's a good thing, then, that AppleInsider is buzzing with talk of the next iMac. The "New iMac" really isn't very new anymore, what with having phased into existence way back in January of last year, and apparently Apple doesn't want a repeat of the slow-as-molasses sales it witnessed back when Mac fans were stuck with the CRT Space Egg for three and a half years. According to AI, Apple is hard at work slapping together yet another "entirely new form factor" for its flagship consumer desktop. If the rumors are true, Jon Ive and his team of workshop elves are "entering the latter development stages" of the overhaul, which is expected to be as much of a total change from the current LCD model as the LCD one was from the original CRT design.

We can only logically conclude, then, that in the interest of keeping the iMac's design fresh, Apple won't use a CRT or an LCD for its display. Now there's a differentiating factor you can sink your teeth into!

We instructed our own sources to do a little digging, and they've uncovered several odd clues that might lend some insight into what Apple plans to use for the iMac's display since, in the alleged words of Mr. Ive, both CRTs and LCDs have been "done to death." One report claims that Apple took delivery of 20,000 Etch-A-Sketch units last week. We've also got sworn testimony that, for the past two months, Apple's top secret display laboratory has been emitting the constant and unmistakable aroma of sardines and grape Big League Chew.

Still another report insists that Jobs and Ive have come to the conclusion that integrated displays are "passé," and therefore the next iMac just won't have one at all. However, it will also lack a video-out port, because "consumers find ports to be confusing" and "they look really ugly anyway." (We are as yet unsure whether the latter comment refers to the ports or the consumers, but we'll keep you posted.) With no possibility of either an integrated or an external display, the next iMac is said to convey information to its users entirely by sound. "It's very Zen," quoth Steve.

Unfortunately, in the interest of simplicity, there's no speaker, either. Or sound ports. Which may prove to be slightly more Zen than the market will bear.

Anyway, whatever this thing turns out to look like, word has it that Apple is shooting for a release "early next spring," or possibly even as soon as January. Which means, if you're planning on an iMac purchase sometime in that time frame, you've only got a couple of months or so to invest in a good, sturdy tarp just in case that gum-and-fish thing turns out to be true.

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Climbing Up The Charts (10/16/03)

You know, we were going to cackle a bit about the latest batch of Windows security flaws to spew forth from Redmond (seven of 'em-- and five, count 'em, five are "critical," i.e. the worst Microsoft can describe), but then we were forwarded more news on Virginia Tech's "Big Mac" supercomputer, and we figured, hey, let's do that, instead. After all, if history's any indication, there'll be at least twelve more Windows flaws reported tomorrow, so what's the rush?

So you probably recall that we recently talked about how, when the new list of the top 500 supercomputers comes out next month, Big Mac has a decent shot of coming in third. We were basing that entirely on Big Mac's theoretical peak performance as compared to those of listed and ranked supercomputers, but, of course, the actual rankings are determined by LINPACK benchmarks, so it was just semi-educated guesswork on our part. Big Mac's LINPACK scores have indeed been calculated, but they won't be published until next month; however, faithful viewer Derek Kent informed us that, according to WIRED, "early benchmarks" of Big Mac's real-world performance indicate that it might score just high enough to take second.

According to one of the guys who works on the top 500 list, scores from a test of 128 of Big Mac's 2,200 processors imply that the cluster is "getting about 80 percent of the theoretical peak." If that ratio holds for the full cluster test, Big Mac could score 14.1 teraflops-- edging out the current #2 supercomputer, Hewlett-Packard's ASCI Q, which rates 13.9. And even if it missed second place, it looks likely to claim third by a pretty wide margin; the current third-place cluster only scored 7.6.

Of course, this is all based on last June's numbers, and Virginia Tech is quick to caution that "there are four or five new supercomputers coming online" that might make for some fiercer competition. The associate director of Big Mac's facility, Jason Lockhart, will only go so far as to say that he "expects the machine to place well" and that "the goal is to be in the top 10." Such reserve! Such caution! He could at least have said that "we'll definitely pound that Dell thing at UT into a thin, runny paste without breaking a sweat."

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