TV-PGSeptember 13, 2000: The public beta is finally here-- and it's even more expensive than most people expected. Meanwhile, the new PowerBook is still MIA, but the iBook gets some seriously cool specs and some startling new hues, and just who was behind the mysterious Expo flood that crippled half the show floor?...
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Happy To Be Screwed (9/13/00)
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See, here's the thing; we want to be sourpusses about how this whole Mac OS X public beta spiel played out, but we're having a tough time staying angry. And that's kind of odd, really, because there are definitely reasons to complain. Let's start off with the obvious sticking point: the price. In case you didn't wake up this morning to scurry downstairs like a kid on Christmas to see what Steve left under the apple.com tree, there's no free download. That comes as no surprise to us, but it's somehow still a disappointment.

Worse yet, Apple's really stretching the whole concept of a "nominal" fee; the beta costs not $9.95, not $19.95, but a fairly substantial $29.95-- and it doesn't even come with a free TapLight or a tube of GS-27 Scratch Remover or anything. Shipping and handling costs? Puh-lease. If it costs Apple $29.95 to press the CD, print up the packaging, put one inside the other, and stick postage and an address label on it, Fred Anderson needs some serious lessons in cost-cutting. For $29.95, that disc better show up at our door with a free balloon and a Singing Steve-o-gram. And what about the Apple Expo attendees? They don't even get free copies-- just the privilege of buying them before the rest of us.

Now, before our mail server catches fire from several thousand messages that say "$29.95 isn't that much," we agree on some level. But we'd just like to remind everyone that this is a beta. It's not complete. It's not even feature-complete. If you run it, you are testing it, and you should expect to be in for a world of hurt. When things don't work, you shouldn't be surprised, and when they do, you should offer thanks to the deity of your choice. In short, by participating in the beta program, you are working for Apple-- and forking over thirty bucks for the privilege of doing so. If anything, Apple should be paying you for your time and effort, but instead, you're shelling out a bunch of cash which we have to assume is either going into the "Steve's Second Jet" fund or paying for some really premium postal service.

So, given that you're paying Apple to work for them, you'd expect a price break on the final product, right? But if you're thinking that the least Apple could do is cut you a $29.95 discount on the final product, you're dead wrong-- the least Apple could do is jack squat, and that's apparently exactly what you'll get. The beta expires on May 15th of next year, at which point you'll need to upgrade to Mac OS X 1.0 (at full price, whatever that turns out to be), or downgrade back to Mac OS 9. Here's hoping Apple has a change of heart, but we're not counting on it.

Having said all that, we admit it: we can't help smiling knowing that our copy is on its way. When we loaded up Apple's Mac OS X page first thing this morning, we saw the price, uttered a sleepy string of expletives, and immediately clicked on the "Buy Now" button. Seconds later we were keying in credit card digits, and we even paid the $10 extra for FedEx delivery. The bottom line is, we really want to participate in making Mac OS X the best operating system the world will ever see (at least until Mac OS XI comes out). As for the price, yes, it's scandalous that Apple abuses geeks like us in such a blatant manner, but we've decided to look at it this way: $39.95 is less than we pay for most computer games, and odds are, we're going to get a lot of entertainment value out of this beta for the next six months or so. Sure, we're also looking forward to helping shape the Mac's next great leap forward and all that, but mostly we just figure we'll play with the Genie Effect over and over again. It's so cute!


 
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The Tradition Continues (9/13/00)
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Undeniably, the Apple Expo in Paris has been suffering a few setbacks. Between the planned Stevenote protest and a Paris taxi strike threatening to make transportation a nightmare, we thought the Apple Expo's prospects for success looked dim last week. Then, on the night before the show opened, faithful viewer Milo Auckerman wrote to let us know that half the Expo floor had been flooded with two inches of water due to a "sprinkler malfunction." And MacNN reports that some 500 attendees who had pre-registered for a seat in the keynote address were turned away at the door due to overbooking-- without so much as an "Oops! We goofed! Here, have a t-shirt."

All of this might make people think that Apple Expo doesn't stand much of a chance of becoming as "important" as the Macworld Expo events here in the States, despite Apple's stated intentions. That's why we were so relieved to hear that the Stevenote itself preserved the most important and long-standing tradition from here in the U.S.-- namely, the complete and utter lack of a new PowerBook, rumors notwithstanding. It's nice to see that some things never change. Some things, however, change pretty drastically-- like the PowerBook's flashy little brother, the iBook.

Yes, Apple's consumer portable is all grown up; in addition to getting a speed boost to 366 MHz, increasing its disk size to a healthy 10 GB, and finally joining the FireWire generation, the entry-level iBook sheds $100 off its list price and dons a couple of new colors. Gone is the juvenile Blueberry, to be replaced by the more adult Indigo we all know and love from the recent iMac revision. But if you'd rather go the eye-catching (or eye-hurting) route, fear not-- fruit is back, baby. Tangerine has been replaced by a vibrant new green that Apple calls Key Lime. A word of warning: don those sunglasses before you check it out.

For those of you who want the biggest and best, the iBook Special Edition just got a serious steroid injection as well. The new model retains its $1799 price tag, but sports a blistering 466 MHz G3 and the long-sought-after DVD-ROM drive. It's available both in standard Graphite and the new what-were-they-thinking Key Lime. All told, we figure that between the Mac OS X public beta release, the new iBooks, and the nonexistent PowerBook announcement, Apple Expo Europe has clearly joined the ranks of the Macworld Expo shows as a first-class Mac show.


 
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Who Stood To Gain? (9/13/00)
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About that flood-- you know, the one that evacuated the Apple Expo show floor on the night before opening when the sprinklers submerged half the venue (including a sizeable chunk of the Apple booth) under two inches of water? According to MacCentral, the sprinkler system "went off without warning" and "was not set off by a fire in the hall." Hmmmm. Furthermore, we can't help but notice that the damage should have been considerably less severe, except that "the building engineers had difficulty turning off the water." Sprinklers that go off for no reason and then can't be turned off? You don't have to be paranoid to realize that something sinister's at work, here. (But it sure helps.)

Clearly, some agency is out to hobble the show-- or at least Apple's participation in it. Perhaps Steve should drag out his enemies list to ferret out a suspect or three. Was this the work of rogue protesters disappointed at the cancellation of the planned keynote interruption? Did anyone happen to see Bill Gates wandering backstage with a wrench? (Sure, the Microsoft booth was affected, too, but it's a small price to pay for the smiting of one's enemies.) Or perhaps it was a more "inside" job-- we notice that the booth of wholly-owned Apple subsidiary FileMaker Inc. is dry as a bone. Are we witnessing the first phase of some bizarre scheme to get Apple back into the red so it'll sell FileMaker off to another company? After all, FileMaker has been displaying some very Microsoftian leanings lately, with changes to its product's interface, licensing terms, and a focus on the business world. Anything's possible.

Oh, wait-- never mind. We just received word from a source at the show that the cause has been found. Some lackey at the Apple booth was setting up a Pentium III system for a side-by-side speed demo and left it turned on; the 24,000 BTU of heat being kicked out the back of the thing understandably tripped the sprinkler mechanism and caused the downpour. But was it an accident, or did Steve order it done on purpose just to generate some joke fodder? According to faithful viewer David Bismuth (reporting from the show floor), Steve first mentioned that nobody could claim there'd been "no leak" at Apple Expo Paris, and then said it was "logical" that they'd had water damage, since Apple was about to introduce Aqua. Tsk, tsk... two inches of water, all for the sake of a couple of lame jokes. Hopefully it was all in the delivery.


 
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