TV-PGDecember 26, 2001: Apple lines up a whopping two million iBooks for the coming year. Meanwhile, the company posts an iPod update-- and then pulls it due to an incompatibility problem. And no matter how bad things get in your life, always remember: you could be dealing with Dell customer service...
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From the writer/creator of AtAT, a Dad Joke taken WAYYYYYY too far

iBooks: Two Million In '02 (12/26/01)

Whether or not Apple is "thinking different," it sure looks like the company is thinking big. Cupertino has been maddeningly tightfisted with the sales figures for the past couple of months, but now that the holiday buying season has finally drawn to a close, we're on pins and needles to hear some actual numbers when Uncle Steve does his usual "State of the Mac" address as part of his next Stevenote in a couple of weeks. May we make a not-so-bold prediction about holiday sales on the lower end of Apple's price spectrum based on a heady mix of historical data and raw gut instinct? We're guessing that iMac sales will have been lackluster at best, iPods will have sold quite a bit better than most people expected, and iBooks will have been a frickin' grand slam.

As for that iBook prediction, it's a little more enthusiastic than it otherwise might have been because faithful viewer Echo Santa Smythe tipped us off to a quick little news nugget which hints at some pretty bright days ahead. Ever since the new iBook form factor debuted in May and finally put a subnotebook back into Apple's product line-up, we were confident that it would sell like gangbusters, and it did-- but now it looks like it was even more popular that we ever dreamed. Credit Lyonaise Securities reports that Apple has just signed a deal with a third-party manufacturer called Compal Electronics to crank out a cool million of the puppies next year. That's a whole lotta shiny white plastic.

But wait, there's more; many of you may recall that a Taiwanese firm called Alpha Top currently builds Apple's iBooks. So is Alpha Top being given the boot? Au contraire, kids; indeed, just days ago the company stated that "it will remain the largest iBook contract manufacturer in 2002, with orders increasing from this year." The largest, eh? Well, assuming that all these reports are true, with Compal tasked to snap together a million of the things, that means that Apple has contracted the manufacture of over two million iBooks this coming year. And Apple wouldn't do that without some pretty darn spiffing sales numbers (and thus a solid demand projection) to back up its massive order-- at least, not if it wants to avoid seeing its shareholders storm Apple headquarters with torches and a lot of rope.

So here's to the little iBook that sells big-- or at least, it better sell big, what with Apple committed to pumping a couple million of them into the channel over the course of the next twelve months. But we're pretty confident it'll all end well. After all, it's not like Apple has ever grossly overestimated demand before, right? Right?

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Another Yanked Updater (12/26/01)

So as of Christmas morn, the AtAT staff is finally iPodified; never let it be said that Katie, AtAT's resident fact-checker and Goddess of Minutiae, doesn't come through with the yuletide goods. We're pleased to report that, after spending a day with the thing, we can confirm that everything you've read about this little device is true. Well, all the good stuff, at least. And some of the bad stuff. But we can't confirm everything you may have read, because for all we know, you saw some article somewhere about how the iPod makes lovely julienne fries and cuts through a steel can and can still slice this tomato. And while we haven't actually tried any of that stuff, we're pretty sure that's not the case.

But the basics of what you've probably heard about the iPod do indeed apply: it's small, it's nifty, and if you try one and don't immediately entertain thoughts of selling your car to pay for one, you may want to check for a pulse. We plugged it into AtAT's main production G4 and about seven minutes later we had something like eighty albums' worth of music on it. For the record, we're not sure what kind of music the iTunes marketing staff is listening to these days, but we're guessing there isn't a healthy dose of punk rock in the mix, because all that stuff about "up to 1,000 songs" is hooey; at last count, we've got 1,127 tunes packed into this little white-and-silver doohickey, and every one of those songs was previously imported into iTunes at 160 kbps. And we've still got 750 MB remaining. "I like short songs!"

Anyway, aside from its tendency to pick up fingerprints whenever an ungloved hand passes within ten feet of its surface, so far there's only one thing about the iPod that we'd consider a drawback, and that's the fact that it didn't support Norwegian right out of the box. We don't actually speak Norwegian, mind you, but we've always found the language pleasing to look at, regardless, and thus the lack of Norwegian support on the iPod was an immediate thorn in our side. Luckily, we seemed to recall noticing that Apple had posted an iPod Updater 1.0.3 last Friday-- and that, in addition to improving MP3 sound quality and supporting long filenames, said update also included support for Brazilian/Portuguese, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, and-- you guessed it-- Norwegian. Score!

Or so we thought. When we went to download the updater, we found that it had been unceremoniously yanked from Apple's servers last Sunday "due to incompatibilities with 'blue and white' Power Macintosh G3 systems." Denied! Is it just us, or does it seem that Apple has been forced to pull a lot of software updates and installers lately? Anyway, Apple promises a new version "shortly," but it's already been three days, and still nothing. (Granted, one of those days just happened to be Christmas, but that's hardly an excuse, is it?) We suppose we have no choice but to wait patiently and make do with Dutch in the meantime. But it's just not the same...

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It Could Be So Much Worse (12/26/01)

Not to bring you down or anything, but we here at AtAT always feel that it's important during the holidays to take a little time and think about those poor souls who are less fortunate than we are. So now that you've ingested enough "special" egg nog to trigger random holiday cheer flashbacks well into next October, we figure it's time for you to sober up a little and consider the plight of those who are so much worse off. We speak, of course, of the Wintel owners.

Oh, sure, maybe you're forced to use a Wintel at work every day, and so maybe you think you know what real psychic pain is. But unless you've had the poor judgment to have invited one of those unholy things into your own home, you've probably only gotten the merest taste of the havoc they can wreak upon your life. After all, if the system at work dies, it's not your responsibility; all you can do is call IT and wait. But if your own personal computer goes wacky, it's up to you to deal with it.

This is not to say, of course, that Macs never get wonky; we simply get the massively unscientifically-determined impression that Macs tend to be less troublesome, overall. And while we've heard our fair share of horror stories involving Apple's customer service, these pale in comparison to some of the catastrophic things we've heard about on the Wintel side of the fence. Case in point: faithful viewer richard points out a posting at The Motley Fool which details one poor lost soul's experience with a lemon from Dell and his customer service saga that clearly emerged from the deepest realms of the scary hot place. (And no, we don't mean Austin.)

We implore you, steel your resolve and read over that nightmare. It's a real eye-opener, and it provides some serious perspective this holiday season. Keep it in mind the next time you're frustrated because Mac OS X doesn't support your scanner or Apple tacks another week onto the delivery time for your Apple Store order; things could be so much worse. Now go eat a cookie... you'll feel better.

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