TV-PGDecember 19, 2001: Owners of combo-less 550 and 667 MHz PowerBooks will soon have an upgrade path available. Meanwhile, Motorola lays off yet another 9,400 employees, mostly from its chipmaking business, and an arrested terrorist claims that Al Qaeda infiltrated Microsoft to introduce bugs into Windows XP...
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From the writer/creator of AtAT, a Dad Joke taken WAYYYYYY too far


 
The Post-Purchase Combo (12/19/01)
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We know, we know... fate is a cruel mistress. After all, when you sold your left kidney to buy that shiny new 667 MHz PowerBook G4 three weeks ago, how were you to know that Apple planned to release two significant product revisions in the space of two short months? Lord knows we sure didn't see it coming. Of course, we also didn't go hocking our semiredundant body parts to fund our Mac addiction, but that's beside the point. We fully understand your plight; you shelled out several grand for the latest and greatest, and now suddenly it's only the almost-latest and nearly-greatest-- and most importantly of all, it doesn't have that DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive you'd been waiting for since the original PowerBook G4 shipped in January. Curse your tragically awful sense of timing!

But stop wailing, because soon you, too, will be able to burn discs and watch DVDs on the go without adding a cumbersome external drive-- and you won't even have to sell your current PowerBook and buy a new one to do it. Apple has announced a Combo Upgrade Program for owners like you who bought just a little bit too early; starting January 14th, you'll be able to call Apple to arrange a surgical drive swap-out via mail. (There's nothing quite like a little mail-order surgery!) And for those of you so geographically blessed, you'll also have the option of taking your PowerBook into your local Apple retail store to undergo the drive swap as an outpatient procedure performed by a licensed Mac Genius. Don't go asking for the upgrade before January 14th, though, or else you'll be branded as a pest.

The price of this miraculous improvement? A mere $299. Now, granted, if you had waited three weeks you could have paid the same exact price for your PowerBook (or $100 more, if you chintzed out and got the 550 MHz model) and you'd have the combo drive now-- but $299 is the going price for feature parity following your appallingly bad purchase timing. No, it's not particularly fair, but look at it this way: we're sure you have at least a few organs left for which medical science would be only too pleased to compensate you. If you decide that $299 is a small price to pay for such a useful upgrade, make sure you get in line right in mid-January, because the program only runs until March 30th.

As for you "Revision A" PowerBook G4 owners (as in, 400 or 500 MHz under the hood), sadly, you're not eligible for this upgrade at any cost. And before you rush off to organize a sit-in or a hunger strike or something, we should note that it's not a discrimination thing; it's just that the combo drive flat out doesn't fit in your 'Book. Sometimes even the heart's fiercest desires can't override the laws of physics. But look at it this way: at least you don't need to sell any body parts to pay for the upgrade.


 
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My, Those Slips Are Pink (12/19/01)
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What can we say? The only appropriate response is a Charlie Brownian sigh of disillusionment. The startling repeatability of Motorola's cost-cutting layoffs used to be at least sort of funny (well, as funny as anything involving massive job loss can ever be), but now we have to assume that the company has officially plunged into a state of hardcore pitifulness so dense that not even mirth can escape. That's right, folks; faithful viewer Lally Singh has unearthed proof that Motorola has a magical bottomless bucket of pink slips, because the job cuts keep coming fast and furious. CNN/Money is reporting that the company plans to add another 9,400 layoffs to its singularly impressive tally.

For what it's worth, while that's more layoffs than Apple has employees, it only represents just over 6% of Motorola's "peak workforce" of 150,000. Still, it's the cumulative effects that are most impressive; in case you've lost count, in its quest to return to profitability, Motorola has now announced a total of 48,400 pink slips since August of last year. That's a whoooole lotta exit interviews. We imagine the company's Human Resources department is feeling mighty tired right about now-- especially since they've probably been a little shorthanded for the past year or so.

What's worse (at least potentially) is that while the bulk of the previous layoffs appeared to come from the mobile phone side of things, this time around, 8,100 of the jobs are being hacked off of the semiconductor arm of the business-- and that might not bode well for Apple. Granted, our logic here is sort of a caveman-style "Motorola hurting... Motorola make PowerPC for Apple... Apple maybe feel ouch" type of thought process, but the fact that it's crude doesn't mean that it's necessarily invalid. For those of us who rely on being fed a not-so-steady diet of faster G4s and (eventually) G5s, an ailing Motorola is a serious downer; at this rate, we wouldn't be surprised to hear that the PowerPC development team consists of two guys named "Phil."

At the very least, weavers of Motorola semiconductor spin-off theories now have something new to chew on. Faithful viewer Alpha Dan noticed a Reuters article which states that the company "said it has identified more manufacturing plants in its money-losing semiconductor unit to close." Given Motorola's continued insistence that it'll be profitable next year, at least one analyst takes that announcement as a hint that the chipmaking arm might be sold off: "To see that big of a revenue drop and still remain profitable means that something is going away, some loss-making business is leaving." That doesn't mean Steve Jobs is currently reaching for his checkbook, but wouldn't it be a hoot? (A potentially unwise hoot, but a hoot nonetheless.)


 
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We Kid Because We Love (12/19/01)
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And this week's "Too Bizarre Not To Mention" plot development comes to you courtesy of faithful viewer Mark, who spotted a Newsbytes article that ponders a possible connection between Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network and Microsoft. Whoa, there, Hubert-- don't go flying off half-cocked. Regular viewers know that we're always the first to believe the worst about the Redmond Giant, but even we wouldn't go so far as to propose even jokingly that Microsoft is somehow tied in with Al Qaeda. (If you're a fan of irreverent humor, pretend we just added something about how only real evil gets to buddy up to Microsoft. If you're offended by such stuff, you never saw it here. Please move on. Now.)

No, what we're talking about is a suspected Al Qaeda member's claim that "Islamic militants infiltrated Microsoft and sabotaged the company's Windows XP operating system." As the story goes, Al Qaeda members "posing as computer programmers" (we suspect that such posing is rampant in Microsoft's OS department) got jobs in Redmond and pumped XP full of "trojans, trapdoors, and bugs." As Velma from Scooby Doo would say, "Jinkies!"

For our money, Microsoft was wise to write the whole claim off as "bizarre and unsubstantiated," because after all, if Al Qaeda did manage to stick a whole slew of bugs into Windows, really, who would ever notice the difference? Is there a distinguishable difference between bugs introduced by a ruthless terrorist organization bent on bringing the world to its knees and bugs introduced by a patriotic, red-blooded American software company bent on bringing the world to its knees? Then again, every time there's a disaster somewhere, a slew of terrorist groups rush to claim responsibility for the act; our only surprise is that it took this long for one of them to claim responsibility for Windows.

And that concludes this edition of "Cheap Shot Theater." (Look, if you're going to give us an opening that huge, of course we're going to take it. We're only human.)


 
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