TV-PGMay 30, 1998: Apple's going after the grey marketers by offering a bounty to its authorized resellers. Meanwhile, back in the labs, the finest minds in Cupertino prepare the next generation of Power Macs with G4's at the core, and Byte magazine will reappear in the fall once it's been "refined..."
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Psst! Wanna Buy a Mac? (5/30/98)

Apple continues its fight to improve both the quality and profitability of how Macs get sold. First, it focused on putting "stores within stores" in all CompUSAs, and then cut all of its other national retailers who weren't pulling their weight. Next up was the recent trimming of the supposed "deadwood" from its reseller list. And now, MacFixit reports that Apple is working to shut down the "grey market" Mac resellers by instituting a Searchlight Program, which encourages authorized Apple resellers to report companies that sell Apple equipment without authorization.

You've probably seen plenty of ads for grey market resellers, possibly without ever knowing that the merchandise they're selling isn't sanctioned by Apple. Anytime you see a price that looks too good to be true, you might be getting a Mac that was "intercepted" before it was supposed to be sold overseas, and consequently you might have trouble getting Apple to service it. Since that practice eats into Apple's profits while also reducing customer satisfaction, the new Searchlight Program tries to persuade authorized resellers to narc on unauthorized ones. As to what kind of "incentive" Apple may be offering its authorized resellers to turn in the grey marketers, we can only speculate. Bonus co-op marketing funds? Better prices on certain equipment? An "I Narced on a Grey Marketer" bumper sticker?

Whether or not these measures actually improve the buying experience for Mac purchasers, they are at least decent cost-cutting moves that should help improve Apple's bottom line without making it tough for buyers to get the gear they need. The next step in Apple's campaign? Only time will tell, but most industry observers expect that the catalog resellers are next in Apple's slash-and-burn campaign. Prepare to see at least a couple of those mail order houses go bye-bye, but don't worry-- we're sure there will be plenty of options left over.

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Make Mine a G4 (5/30/98)

Sure, Apple's current Power Mac G3's are awesome machines. The thing is, they aren't really high-end systems, despite the blistering speed of the processor that drives them; they have fairly low RAM expansion limits, they come with an internal IDE drive instead of high-speed SCSI ones, there are only three PCI slots, the bus speed can't compete with those of high-end PC systems, etc. The current crop are mid-range machines (and they're priced that way!), but they're not suited to all of the abuse a serious graphics or video producer can dish out-- and at six months old, they're getting a little long in the tooth, anyway.

That's why we're pleased to see Mac the Knife's description of the next generation of Power Macs. Due sometime this winter, the new systems reportedly include four PCI slots, a fast bus, and a super-speedy G4 processor. Sounds promising! Mac OS Rumors builds on this description, with lots of detail. The four PCI slots may include one 66 MHz 64-bit slot. The "fast bus" is 100 MHz, though that may move to 133 MHz later. And the speed of that G4? 600 to 850 MHz.

The interesting bit is that this new "Pro" motherboard is expected to be used in both the next-generation Power Macs and PowerBooks. (Of course, stuff like the PCI slots would be removed from the portable version of the board, but the basic design would be the same.) And according to Rumors, the first systems based on this motherboard may ship in time for next January's MacWorld Expo, since IBM is working closely with Apple on the board design. Imagine the scene if Apple demos an 850 MHz PowerBook on stage next January... Heart attacks in the audience, religious raptures in the aisles, frenzied road warriors storming the stage-- not a pretty sight. ;-)

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Not Dead, Only Sleeping (5/30/98)

It would appear that reports of Byte's death were greatly exaggerated. According to a CMP Media press release, Byte was purchased from McGraw Hill, along with InformationWeek, InternetWeek, Network Computing, and Windows Magazine. While it has been suspended for a few months, it's expected to be relaunched in the fall, presumably with a new look and possibly a slightly retuned focus.

Kenneth Crom, CMP's President of Publishing, states that Byte "needs refinement," which is why it's been temporarily suspended. Now, we at AtAT aren't readers of the publication, but we're always a little suspicious whenever something gets bought out and then taken out of circulation for "refinement;" all too often the product gets "refined" out of existence. (You see this more often when a good software product gets bought by a competitor; we still boycott Symantec for buying out MacTools Pro and shutting it down.) While we do expect Byte to return, there's a distinct chance that the "refined" publication will bear little resemblance to the magazine to which its readers are accustomed-- for better or for worse.

Of course, we'd only really worry if, say, Ziff-Davis bought MacAddict and suspended it temporarily for "refinement." Luckily, we don't expect that to happen anytime soon.

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