TV-PGFebruary 21, 2002: Yes, Apple just posted a slew of sales job openings-- but they aren't for new Apple retail stores. Meanwhile, if you're itching for an iPod but you're low on cash, we've got a cunning plan for you to get one for free, and it's business as usual for Microsoft, who is tracking the music and movie habits of its users and twisting its "Redmond Justice" settlement into a bigger club to wield against its customers...
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No Jumping To Conclusions (2/21/02)

As we've mentioned on numerous occasions in the past, those of us obsessed with Apple's retail initiative quickly learned that online job postings often reveal upcoming store locations long before Apple formally announces them. It's just one of those things that Apple can't really hide; we imagine it's kind of tough to open a store before hiring any help, and people interviewing for jobs generally like to know where they'd actually be working. Few prospective sales assistants won't blanch at accepting a job which might involve a thousand-mile daily commute if the store turns out to be four states over. The gas money's a killer.

So unless Apple would be willing to preserve its secrecy by assembling a staff at the last possible second via the simple expedient of pulling random warm bodies off the street and sacrificing any and all standards as to employee qualifications, goals, or personal hygiene (a strategy commonly known as the "Best Buy Approach"), word about upcoming Apple stores is just going to have to leak out as Apple recruits eager Mac fans looking for a career in retail. That's why scanning Apple's job listings is such a reliable way to spot upcoming Apple stores months before they open. But you have to be careful not to jump to conclusions.

For instance, we noticed that MacNN just posted a link to "dozens of 'Computer Sales Opportunity' listings on" that Apple has put up over the course of the past couple of days. These positions list openings for "interactive, high energy, highly motivated, goal-oriented individuals" with "1-3 years retail electronic sales experience" in scads of locations which currently lack any hint of an Apple retail store. This has led numerous overexuberant fans to assume that they've stumbled upon the motherlode of geographical data on Apple's second wave of retail store openings.

Sorry to be the ones holding the bucket, but here comes the cold water: those job openings are almost certainly not for upcoming Apple stores. Try to keep up, here-- Apple is specifically seeking individuals with "commission sales experience," which doesn't quite mesh with the Apple store sales model. The company has also never heavily recruited Apple store workers who are "knowledgeable in [the] Windows and Macintosh platform[s]," certainly not giving Windows top billing. Then there's the bit about requiring the "ability to teach and train others not familiar with the Apple brand." Apple stores don't offer customer training courses, so ask yourselves-- whom would these people be training?

Connect the dots, and it all points squarely to Apple's last remaining national retail partner. Remember how Apple has been working to put a real, honest-to-goodness Apple employee into 70 to 90 CompUSA stores across the country? Now that's an environment in which experience with Windows, commission sales, and training Mac-clueless coworkers would make someone the ideal candidate. Just to verify, we selected a sample of cities from Apple's retail job listings-- Totowa, Parsippany, Mt. Laurel, Princeton, Springfield, Edison, and East Hanover, all in the great state of New Jersey. We then headed over to CompUSA's store listing page to do a little searching. Well, whaddaya know? By an incredible coincidence, there just happens to be CompUSA store in every single one of those New Jersey cities-- and few others.

So if you were jumping up and down in glee because you thought an Apple store was coming to your hometown and now you feel like they just cancelled Christmas, hey, cheer up-- at least your local CompUSA is probably going to provide a much-improved Mac shopping experience sometime soon. That's something, right?

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Our Brilliant Free iPod Plan (2/21/02)

We have to admit, we really thought that Apple would have been forced to drop its price on the iPod by now. After all, just about every review we've ever seen of the thing practically gushes over its various and sundry droolworthy features before finally concluding that it's just too expensive for most people to afford. The fact that Apple apparently continues to sell them at an acceptable pace without having had to knock a single buck off of its hefty $399 sticker price-- even in this strained economy-- is a testament to just how insanely great Apple's little digital music powerhouse really is. When you think about it, that's pretty amazing.

Of course, while that's nice and all, if you're broke, it doesn't do squat to help you get your hands on one. And while AtAT isn't exactly in a position to lend you a couple of Benjamins until your extremely dodgy tax refund shows up (you know what ol' Willy the Shakes said-- "neither a borrower nor a lender be, especially if you're talking about loaning money to the creepy deadbeats in your viewing audience"), we can at least let you in on a secret method to get an iPod for free-- as in, gratis; no cost; spend the cash at Sharper Image instead. It's a plan so simple you'll wonder why you didn't think of it earlier. Ready for this? Perform onstage at the Grammy Awards.

See, faithful viewer Garret Drexler tipped us off to a New York Post article from a few days back which discusses the "goodie bags" that each Grammy performer is about to receive, and guess which gleaming white-and-silver digital hub appliance just happens to be included in the pile? So all you need to do is find some way to get yourself added to the lineup before this coming Wednesday's festivities, and you, too, will receive a free iPod-- along with roughly $15,600 worth of other loot, like diamond earrings, yearly memberships to ritzy health clubs, free hotel stays, and even personalized bronze busts.

So start warming up those vocal cords and get ready to sing for your supper. As for how you manage to wedge yourself into the evening's agenda, well, you're on your own-- we can't do all the thinking around here. But we will say this: while we could never condone any sort of Tonya Harding-style attack on any of the scheduled performers, if anyone out there is planning something unsavory involving a blunt instrument and a vulnerable leg joint, on a completely unrelated note, that guy from 'N SYNC with the weird facial hair has always creeped us out.

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Plus C'est La Même Chose (2/21/02)

The world of high tech moves awfully quickly, while the U.S. legal system hugs the other end of the speed bell curve-- so when you chuck 'em together in a box and shake it, which one wins? To answer that variation on the old "irresistible force meets immovable object" quandary, look no further than Microsoft and the company's various antitrust entanglements. The "Redmond Justice" saga (not even counting that whole other spat with the Justice Department that finished up in 1995) has been on the air in some form or other for over four years now; that's a couple of ice ages in technology years. So what's changed?

Well, let's see, here; according to a Reuters article pointed out by faithful viewer Konrad (and worth checking out at least for the photo of a teeny, tiny Bill Gates), Microsoft has already managed to pervert its latest proposed settlement with the feds into a way to "impose harsher terms on computer manufacturers that buy its software." Apparently "the top 20 PC manufacturers" are all miffed about the new terms, which allegedly "go further in preventing them from enforcing the patents on their own hardware against Microsoft." Not much difference there, except that the New York Times notes that the DoJ is now on Microsoft's side, pushing for the settlement's acceptance.

Meanwhile, faithful viewer Dean White points out that despite all the scrutiny of Microsoft's potentially icky business practices, not much has changed in Redmond on the whole privacy front, either. The Washington Post reports that Windows Media Player for Windows is "logging the songs and movies that customers play" and attaching that information to unique identifiers, meaning that "user habits could be tracked and sold for marketing purposes" should Microsoft ever decide to do so. Wonderful. Not exactly the actions of a company cowed by a heaping helping of justice.

So if you ask us, the law hasn't done much to curb any of Microsoft's typical behavior; the whole "Redmond Justice" spat came about primarily from the bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows 95. Since then, Microsoft has shipped Windows 98, Windows 2000, and Windows XP-- all still with IE "integrated" with each operating system. Well, maybe in another four years or so...

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