TV-PGMarch 24, 2004: Now new Power Macs are sliding into April, June, or even July, while rumors of new eMacs, iMacs, and PowerBooks fall all over the calendar. Meanwhile, AAC as the DVD-Audio format is in, out, and in again, and Microsoft gets walloped by Europe for antitrust violations-- enjoy it while it lasts...
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We Need CLOSURE, Already (3/24/04)

It's official, people: predictions of when new Mac hardware will arrive are now all over the freakin' map. On the Power Mac front, right now the consensus in the rumor mill appears to be abandoning the March 26th-ish theory in favor of Mac OS Rumors's long-posited prediction that an unveiling at or just prior to NAB is far more likely. AppleInsider, at least, has more or less climbed on board with that scenario, reporting that "Power Mac G5 revisions may not ship until much later in April" and its sources "doubt that Apple would introduce any new products prior to the close of the fiscal quarter," which ends on March 31st. Bolstering that theory is the report that Apple has allegedly warned dealers that all Mac inventory "is expected to be 'sold-out' by March 27th"-- except for Power Macs. And if Power Macs are the one system Apple does have in stock at the end of the month, it hardly seems likely that Apple would ship new ones at that time, unless maybe it's for some sort of performance art thingy.

Oh, but wait-- it gets worse. Now Mac OS Rumors says that "a great many sources in retail are saying they've been told to expect no major Power Mac updates until as far off as June or even July." MOSR isn't putting a whole lot of faith in those reports just yet, but if they're true, then Apple may have decided to bag on the whole 2.5 GHz speed-bump altogether, opting to jump right to the 3.0 GHz that Steve promised us last summer. Maybe Apple knows something about IBM's 3.0 GHz timetable that the rest of us don't; if it's going to ship in volume in July (remember, Steve said "summer"), it hardly seems worth the effort to ship an interim 2.5 GHz model just to replace it three months down the line. Seems to us the energy would be far better spent finally getting that orbiting death ray up and running.

Meanwhile, Power Macs are just the tip of the rumorological iceberg. What about all those other Macs that'll be sold out at the end of the month? Apple has reportedly told its resellers to expect a three-week "product dry spell," theoretically because all the gear will be diverted to school districts to fill orders coming in at the start of the educational buying season. And okay, that makes sense, but between this new "dry spell" report, recent claims that certain eMac and iMac models have been designated "End of Life," and previous rumors of "something huge" coming in April, the odds of at least some revised consumer desktop models (iMac G5?) showing up within the next month or so seem pretty decent right now. (Of course, we thought that the odds of speed-bumped Power Macs arriving last January seemed pretty decent, too, so you might want to keep that fact firmly in mind before you go calling your bookie.)

That takes care of desktops-- how about notebooks? Well, AppleInsider still maintains that new PowerBooks won't surface before the "final week of April," and doesn't specify whether they'll be yet another G4 incarnation or the first PowerBook G5s to grace the planet with their presence. But faithful viewer Armin notes that MacTechNews is placing its bets on a PowerBook G5-- albeit one that won't arrive until WWDC in June. It's in German, so you know it's true. You can scope out Babelfish's automatic English translation, if necessary, but be warned: the rumor loses a lot of its inherent authority without the German, and you may find yourself wondering just who those guys are in the first place-- and that's a guaranteed buzzkill when you're trying to get swept up in the rumoric drama of it all.

At the end of the day, of course, the only thing that everyone seems to be able to agree on is that new Macs are coming at some point before the sun burns out, and we're guessing that you already knew that. The good news, though, is that the rumors cover pretty much every Mac in Apple's line-up-- well, except the iBook. So, uh, would anybody mind sending us an unconfirmed iBook rumor? Seriously, make one up if you have to. We're just feeling weirdly unsettled without one.

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It Is! It Isn't! It Will Be! (3/24/04)

Aha, we knew it was a good idea to sit on that whole AAC-for-DVD-Audio thing for a day or so! See, faithful viewer dave sent us over to The Register, who reported yesterday that the DVD Forum (the group of bigwigs who determine the standards for those shiny circular things on which you folks are apparently buying copies of cinematic masterpieces such as Femalien and Sadomania) had chosen AAC as the official low-res audio format for DVD-Audio discs. AAC, as we're sure you're aware, is the Dolby-licensed digital audio format that Apple uses for the iTunes Music Store, and which every other store claims is going to go down in flames because they all use Windows Media Audio instead. Of course, Apple sells something like twice as many songs as the rest of them all put together, so we're not entirely sure about the basis of the threat, but whatever.

Anyway, the Reg report quotes a story at High Fidelity Review, which claims that the DVD Forum Working Group picked AAC over WMA, MP3, and Sony's ATRAC for "a number of reasons," but mostly because it "sounded much better than the others." So AAC becoming the official DVD-Audio format would be a big credibility win for Apple, and might get some of the other stores thinking about offering protected AAC songs alongside-- or even instead of-- their current WMA versions. Indeed, if Apple winds up licensing its FairPlay DRM system to stores, the switch would be a no-brainer, since it would allow them to sell songs playable on all those iPods floating around out there. There's just one teensy little problem: apparently the AAC announcement was a tad premature.

See, according to Macworld UK, the DVD Forum is officially denying that the AAC reports are true. The precise quote is "the voting subject of 'Adoption of the mandatory audio codec MPEG-4 HE AAC' for the optional specifications for DVD-audio (ROM zone) was not approved." The confusion appears to have arisen due to some inaccurate minutes for a meeting last February, which, when posted, did in fact report that AAC had been chosen, but they've since been corrected. Whoopsie.

Don't despair just yet, however; The Register now reports that High Fidelity Review has clarified its position, which is that the DVD Forum's Working Group has, indeed, selected AAC as the best-sounding of all the proposed formats, and that it wasn't officially approved only because "negotiations between license holders, developers and the Forum are still underway," and not because the Forum has rejected it in favor of a different format. The official adoption of the AAC standard by the Steering Committee is therefore expected "in due course," and High Fidelity Review claims that the outcome is "a done deal."

Which means we could have told you about the whole thing yesterday after all, since the "yes" only turned into a "no" for a short time before turning back into a "yes" again. But hey, isn't it more fun to hear everyone make all these denials?

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Enjoy It While It Lasts (3/24/04)

Okay, we know it technically isn't Friday yet, but what with Microsoft having been smacked down something fierce over there in Europe, we really can't wait another couple of days to gloat. Besides, what with our recent late broadcasts and the mind-bending effects of time zone differences, it must be Friday somewhere, right? Heck, we're pretty sure that in New Zealand it's currently September or something. Oh, and don't forget that this is a leap year-- that wacky 29th of February pushed us a day closer to Friday, didn't it?

Aw, heck, let's just play the trump card and be done with it: one of the AtAT staff went out drinkin' tonight, so if nothing else, it's a virtual Friday. There. Problem solved.

So now that we've established that it's kindasorta Friday somewhere in the universe and therefore it's Wildly Off-Topic Microsoft-Bashing Day, how 'bout those feisty Europeans? Imagine slapping Redmond with a $600 million fine for antitrust violations-- why, it almost reminds us of our own Department of Justice, back before the bribes or the neuterings or whatever it was that caused the shift from "we have an airtight case, so let's break up the company" to "we have an airtight case, so let's give them a big bag of Tootsie Rolls and then offer to wash all their cars with our tongues."

Not that a $600 million fine will hurt Microsoft in the slightest, really; given that the company has a heart-stopping $52.78 billion just sitting around in nice big piles (not counting the $26.5 billion in gross profit it rakes in over the course of a year), we figure the company probably spends more than that on Slim Jims in a month. (They used to spend it on Tootsie Rolls, but the DoJ has them covered on that front these days.) But, see, even though it's the largest antitrust fine the European Commission has ever doled out, it's not really about the money anyway; BBC NEWS reports that in addition to having to shell out a little pocket change, Microsoft has also been ordered to "reveal details of its Windows software codes within 120 days" (by which we assume the EC means that the company has to share portions of its source code and APIs) and also "must offer a stripped-down version of its Windows operating system minus the firm's Media Player audiovisual software within 90 days." See? Now that's hitting 'em where it hurts.

Mind you, these restrictions only apply in Europe, and we suppose it's a little early to be celebrating much, since Microsoft plans to appeal-- and if you recall, over here in the U.S. Microsoft was actually ordered to split up before the appeals process began and the DoJ turned into a pack of slobbering lap dogs. Here's hoping that the EC is immune to the effects of whatever mind control ray that Redmond used over here. But just in case the decision does collapse into dust, we may as well enjoy it while it's here; after all, when else are you going to get choice quotes like this one? "Microsoft claims that it should not be fined at all because it did not know its behaviour would breach EU law." Ah yes, the classic Steve Martin "I Forgot Armed Robbery Was Illegal" defense. Yeah, that'll work.

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