TV-PGDecember 2, 2003: Things get ugly (and more than a little surreal) at Disney, as CEO Eisner allegedly calls Steve Jobs a "Shiite Muslim." Meanwhile, Apple's retail initiative puts the company on the TWICE Top 100 Consumer Electronics Retailers list, and the next big version of Windows is selling in Malaysia two years early for a buck and change...
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Name-Calling Gets Weird (12/2/03)

Oh my oh my oh dinosaurs, things sure are getting mighty heated down Disney way, aren't they? Sure, the situation may not be directly relevant to Mac fans right now, but given that seasoned Apple-watchers know that Disney will be buying out Apple any minute now (looks quizzically at watch, shakes it, holds it to ear, shakes it again, realizes that it's not a watch at all but a bottle cap taped to a rubber band), it's good to stay on top of any Mickey-related drama. Plus, you know, there's that whole deal with Steve Jobs running some other company called Pixar that's made a handful of little movies for Disney-- nothing you'd have heard of, probably, but we're told that some kids like them a little.

So yeah, it's at least tangentially relevant that Disney's Board of Directors is in a state of utter higgledy-piggledy right now; we're not totally up on the sitch, but apparently CEO Michael Eisner and his cronies on the Board ganged up on director Roy Disney and got him booted, ostensibly because he had "surpassed the expected retirement age established by the Board's Corporate Governance Guidelines"; the only problem is that those guidelines don't apply to management directors, which Roy is-- or was. Once Roy got the shaft, director Stan Gold resigned in protest, accusing the Board of ousting Roy for being "pointed and vocal in his criticism of Michael Eisner." Says Stan: "I cannot sit idly by as this Board continues to ignore and disenfranchise those who raise questions about the performance of management... Michael Eisner (when measured by the dismal results over the last 7 years) is not up to the challenge."

Strong stuff-- although you have to wonder just how Stan expects to get Eisner out of the driver's seat by, um, quitting. Still, the boardroom drama has clearly reached a fever pitch, certain people want Eisner gone, and if you like your speculation extra speculationy, this is your chance to concoct all sorts of fanciful scenarios that lead to His Steveness's third concurrent CEOship. (We bet he looks cute in mouse ears.) And here's a little more fuel for your crazy, crazy fire: faithful viewer David Poves notes that, according to the Drudge Report (found via MacMinute), Stan Gold "claims Eisner called him and others-- including Pixar Chairman Steve Jobs-- 'Shiite Muslims.'" Gold's interpretation of Eisner's wacky epithet? He "took that to mean that Eisner believed his critics were extreme in their views."

Now, of course, it's totally reasonable to think that the only reason that Steve got dropped into the middle of this pile of Shiite (and hey, look-- we're still PG!) is because he's been renegotiating contract terms between Disney and Pixar, but the mention in connection to the Stanley and Roy boardroom vanishing act (sans tiger mauling) invites all sorts of sly sidelong glances at Eisner's Special CEO Chair™ and whether Steve's hinder might fit in it. After all, calling someone a Shiite Muslim over contract negotiations might be a bit of a stretch, but when someone's trying to get you fired, well, it's a perfectly natural thing to do. It probably happens every day.

Of course, it may all be hogwash from the get-go; for his part, Eisner "categorically denies calling anyone a 'Shiite Muslim.'" We've been unable to find any further comment from him online, so we called his office for clarification: according to Eisner, what he actually called Steve and Stan and Roy were "Shiite mushrooms." Further incisive questioning revealed that he actually meant shiitake mushrooms, but got confused because he missed his nap that day. So as it turns out, the man's not religiously intolerant; he just doesn't like fungus.

Whatever. Hey, Steve-- what's your hat size?

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It's Good News (We Think) (12/2/03)

Perhaps you recall back when Apple first announced its intention to open its own retail stores, and a fair number of armchair CEOs (not to mention those pesky analysts) immediately proclaimed the move to be a Bad Idea™. We seem to remember more than a few predictions that, just because Gateway was forced to close a bunch of stores, sales in Apple's boutiques would flop and after a couple of years the whole wacky scheme would be abandoned as a failed experiment. Well, that was two and a half years ago, Apple's up to over seventy stores, and it just opened its first one overseas-- and even if the stores weren't breaking even, they'd still be an invaluable asset to Apple in terms of pure visibility and mind share.

The thing is, though, they are breaking even (finally), and faithful viewer eric even notes that, according to Reed Business Information, Apple has finally clawed its way onto the TWICE Top 100 Consumer Electronics Retailers list: "For Apple, a 471.6% sales surge born of a near doubling in store count (to 51 units) delivered the Macmeisters to 34th place on the TWICE rankings with $383 million in volume under their belt." An increase of 471.6%? Clearly someone's been eating his Retail Wheaties.

Now, to be perfectly honest, we really haven't a clue as to what these numbers really mean. Are these guys counting all products sold by each manufacturer, or just "consumer electronics"? Does a Mac count as "consumer electronics"? What if it's a Power Mac instead of an iMac? What if it's an iMac (a "consumer" electronic device) but it's sold to a business instead of a consumer? And do these numbers only count sales through retail outlets?

After staring at the article for a while, we think we've got some answers. For one thing, despite the fact that the list is called the "TWICE Top 100 CE Retailers," evidently "retail" isn't a requirement-- hence Dell's fourth-place ranking. We're still a little fuzzy on whether computer sales are counted or not, since Dell's sales for purposes of this list-- $5.3 billion-- represent about a seventh of its total revenue last year, and since it sells mostly to business, apparently direct computer sales to consumers do count. (We seriously doubt it made $5.3 billion only selling "MP3 players and digital cameras," examples of the "non-computer" items that qualified it for the list in the first place.)

But then look at Apple's numbers versus Gateway's; Gateway is in 13th place with "$2.1 billion in sales," whereas Apple is only 34th with "$383 million in volume." Yet Gateway's total revenue was $4.17 billion and Apple's was $5.74 billion. If they're only counting retail sales, which might explain the discrepancy (indeed, the article flat out said that Apple's 471.6% increase in qualifying sales stemmed from its "near doubling in store count"), then why the heck is Dell-- who has no retail presence at all, save for a bunch of mid-mall kiosks as "try before you buy" stations-- on here in the first place?

We're probably just missing something really obvious and it all makes sense somehow, but if so, please don't tell us-- we've stared at these numbers for so long, their seeming incomprehensibility has taken on Zen characteristics and we're this close to achieving Enlightenment. Listen; it's the sound of one hand clapping!

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Tomorrow's Junk... Today! (12/2/03)

Say, you know how Microsoft's next major version of Windows, dubbed "Longhorn," is supposed to have us Mac fans quaking in our boots? Because, you know, it's totally going to blow Panther away-- which might actually be a concern if, say, the company had ever released an operating system that was more than marginally better than "good enough" in the first place... or if Longhorn were actually going to ship before 2006, by which time Panther will likely have been superceded by even niftier versions of Mac OS X at least twice. Seriously, about the only way we'd panic is if Longhorn were available to consumers right now.

What? It is? OH NO!!

Oh, wait-- false alarm. As faithful viewer Michael Yee points out, the BBC reports that while Longhorn is currently available, it's a pirated super-early development version selling in Malaysia for a buck fifty-eight. And for once with Microsoft software, you actually get what you pay for!

See, since Longhorn won't be finished for at least another couple of years, all the pirated version appears to be is the pre-alpha release distributed to developers at the Professional Developers Conference last October-- a version that was reportedly widely available from seedier online sources the day before the PDC began. And the Malaysian pirates apparently have an uncanny ability to price software in line with its intrinsic worth; $1.58 for a dangerous Longhorn pre-alpha sounds just about right, given that a plastic coaster at Crate & Barrel can run about 95 cents. So subtract roughly a buck from Longhorn's price for the ability to set your drink on the CD-R to prevent unsightly water stains on your desk, and you find that the software itself is worth approximately 60 cents. Of course, for the same $1.58, you could buy the coaster and a can of Coke to put on top of it, so we rate that to be the smarter buy.

Microsoft cautions consumers that "it would be extremely risky to load the still unstable operating system onto a home computer." (We think they're talking about Longhorn, but frankly, from that description, it's hard to say for sure.) In other words, if people want to pay money for untested and bug-ridden software capable of wreaking utter havoc with their systems, Microsoft has a wide selection of legitimate titles that fit the bill perfectly! Sure, it costs a couple hundred bucks more, but 1) it's legal, and 2) you're far more likely to be compatible with the wide selection of viruses and worms available for your immediate amusement. After all, why risk the loss of your data due to a bug in a preproduction operating system when you can instead put it in the hands of a seasoned virus-writer who can make sure it gets corrupted right?

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