TV-PGDecember 11, 2001: Apple gets its day in court to try to put the kibosh on Microsoft's "Free Windows For Schools" settlement proposal. Meanwhile, some people are wondering whether the mystery investor who just gave Palm $50 million likes black turtlenecks and bottled water, and the grandpappy of Mac rumors sites goes AWOL...
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In The Courtroom At Last (12/11/01)

The saga continues. Last month, Microsoft proposed that it be allowed to settle a hundred or so private antitrust cases by donating over a billion dollars' worth of "cash, products, and services" to thousands of financially-challenged U.S. schools. Since that proposal included some $800 million in free Microsoft software, some people are understandably upset-- such as Steve Jobs, who isn't thrilled with a settlement proposal that a) really lets Microsoft get off cheap, since fully half the bill will be paid in free software which costs almost nothing to duplicate, and b) hands Redmond yet another monopoly by flooding the education market with free copies of Windows, thus effectively nuking Apple's education market share overnight-- without all that tedious mucking about with actual competition.

Well, last week Apple filed a supplemental brief with the judge which amounted to a formal protest, and evidently it did some good. The latest development is that yesterday Apple (in the form of Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary Nancy R. Heinen-- "Only Big Guns Need Apply") actually stated its case before Judge Motz, who is still considering whether or not he should approve the settlement. A ZDNet News article pointed out by faithful viewer Paul Avers reports that Ms. Heinen responded to Microsoft's assertion that the proposal is "very fair and even generous" by asking the judge, "Why would you let a monopolist get a better foothold?"

Microsoft claims that it's "gone to great lengths to make the settlement as 'platform neutral' as possible, and for what it's worth, the company has been making subtle changes to its proposal to give schools a little more leeway when it comes to deciding what platform on which to blow the cash. But the fundamental problem with the deal is that a large chunk of the settlement still comes in the form of free Windows licenses and copies of Windows-only software; since the nation's "poorest schools" can't afford to pass up free software; they'll obviously "choose" Wintels over Macs. Clever. Scummy, but clever.

Apple, as you probably recall, is pushing for Microsoft to donate the money in cold, hard cash, which the schools could then spend on whatever technology they choose. The judge apparently digs the elegance and symmetry of that idea, since it truly promotes competition; indeed, if the schools fairly chose to buy Microsoft products and services with their share of the loot, Redmond would even be winning its money back. So the judge asked Microsoft counsel Tom Burt why that wouldn't be a better solution, to which Burt reportedly replied that such a system "would deny huge benefits to the schools." Sadly, we're not told what those "huge benefits" might be, but we suspect it's probably got something to do with the sheer joy of not having to worry about that pesky concept of choice. Let's see what the judge decides...

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Palm's Masked Investor (12/11/01)

Christmas came early this year for diehard Apple PDA conspiracy theorists. The iPod has the more creative rumormongers drooling, because it demonstrates that Apple isn't averse to cranking out handheld electronic consumer devices. There's also the little fact that the iPod packs a couple of ARM processors (like those used in the long-lamented Newton) and runs an embedded operating system made by Pixo, a company founded by an Apple alum who used to be a "key member of the Newton development team." That's rumorological gold, baby, and it's all good fodder for desperate people still waiting for an "iPad."

Apart from the whole iPod thing, though, there's still more grist for the Apple PDA rumor mill; faithful viewer resteves informs us that the anachronistically-titled Cube-Zone is going "hmmmmmm" over that $50 million windfall that Palm announced a few days ago. For those of you who missed it, last Friday Palm stated that it had recently issued a convertible note worth fifty big ones to "an investor it did not identify." Mysterious faceless investors dishing up bailout money for the stumbling PDA market leader? It's almost too good to be true.

The Cube-Zone, naturally enough, considers the possibility that Palm's Mystery Bailout Buddy might be none other than Apple itself. The idea here is that the two companies have been collaborating on some sort of Apple-branded, Palm OS-based handheld device, and so Apple wants to keep Palm from spiralling into bankruptcy. However, it obviously can't do so publicly without letting the PDA-shaped cat out of the cat-shaped bag-- hence, the secret investment. It's certainly possible; Apple's got more than enough cash on hand, and there have been numerous references in the past to Apple and Palm working closely on undisclosed projects.

Of course, there's another explanation: Apple might not be involved at all, and the real investor might simply be keeping its identity cloaked out of sheer embarrassment. After all, we imagine that investing in Palm these days might attract some unwanted pointing and giggling on Wall Street; heck, even we here at AtAT still go red-faced when we admit we bought in at $28 a share. We much prefer the former scenario, however. iPad, here we come!

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Conservation Of Rumorgy (12/11/01)

For the record, folks, no, we don't know what happened to Mac OS Rumors, although judging by the number of viewers writing in to ask, everybody assumes that everyone in the Apple-centric media business gets together to go bowling every Friday. We hate to shatter your illusions, but here at AtAT we're the virtual equivalents of those loner survivalist nuts who hoard bottled water and canned ravioli and poke a shotgun barrel out through the mail slot when the neighborhood kids dare to ring the bell on Halloween. In other words, we aren't very good shmoozers, and as such, we hardly know anyone else in this... well, just for the sake of convenience, let's call it an "industry."

So while we've traded a couple of polite email messages over the past several years, we're hardly MOSR's bestest drinking buddies or anything, and we're just as puzzled by you at that site's sudden and prolonged disappearance. Faithful viewer jg3 pointed out that the registration of MOSR.COM expired a couple of weeks ago, but that's not the trouble-- MACOSRUMORS.COM still has seven months left on the clock, and both addresses still point to the same server. What's more, that server still exists on the 'net; it's just not actually serving any pages.

Our best theory so far is that there's a karmically predetermined and constant level of Mac rumor energy ("rumorgy"?) in the universe during any given era, and right now we're at low tide. AppleInsider's return (if, indeed, the single article posted a week ago heralds an actual return to regular updates and wasn't just some freak posting anomaly) may well be all the rumor the cosmos is currently willing to dish up, thus explaining MOSR's MIA status. This is, however, just a theory.

We suppose we could do the "responsible investigative journalist" thing and just ask MOSR's proprietor why the site is offline, but we won't, for two very important reasons. The first is that any act which resembles an honest-to-goodness factual query of a reliable and named source instead of rampant speculation based entirely on hearsay and tarot cards seems woefully inappropriate, given the circumstances. The second is that we're really, really lazy. (Plus, we have TiVo. 'Nuff said.) Here's hoping that the universe sees fit to apportion a little more Mac rumor energy soon, because when MOSR disappears for too long, we start to get hives.

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