TV-PGAugust 21, 2003: The latest developer build of Panther proves once and for all that Apple's got wireless input devices up its sleeve. Meanwhile, the company begins giving away iPods on a daily basis, and CFO Fred Anderson signs up to juggle axes at a keynote for investors next month...
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No Wires, For Sure, Finally (8/21/03)

Cat, meet the outside of the bag. Hey folks, remember all those tantalizing little clues about a possible Apple-branded wireless keyboard and mouse emerging soonish? Specifically, we're referring to the price cuts on existing Apple input devices last month, Power Mac G5 order summaries explicitly listing a "Keyboard Wired" and a "Wired Mouse," and the presence of a Bluetooth tab in the Keyboard and Mouse preferences pane in developer releases of Panther. Pretty convincing stuff, right? Clearly Apple expects to ship a wireless keyboard and mouse combo any day now.

Except that all of those clues can be explained away; the price cuts might have been a simple reaction to sagging demand or reduced parts costs, the unusually precise wording on the order summaries may have been the result of a recent Apple memo on the "Merits and Potential Tax Benefits of Suspiciously Thorough Product Descriptions," and the apparent Bluetooth support in Panther may have been included simply for the benefit of third party products. (After all, Mac OS X has had support for multiple mouse buttons for years, now, and you don't see a two-button mouse from Apple yet, do you? Do you?! Yeah, that's what we thought. Punk.) So if you're willing to lean a little to the Scully side of the bell curve, you can easily dismiss all that "evidence" as inconclusive.

But the latest proof isn't so easily ignored. Thanks to MacRumors, we found out about a couple of very interesting latest-build Panther screenshots over at ChaosMint. It seems that if you actually activate the Bluetooth mouse feature and you don't have a Bluetooth mouse handy, Panther spits out a very informative error message: "If you are using an Apple Wireless Mouse, slide the cover on the bottom of the mouse to expose the LED." Similarly, if you try to enable Bluetooth keyboard mode without a compatible device, Panther tells you that "if you are using an Apple Wireless Keyboard, move the switch on the back of the keyboard towards the LED." Go ahead, just try and discredit that-- if you dare!!

So what have we learned, here, kids? Well, product names, for one thing, plus a couple of physical characteristics-- the mouse has a sliding cover on its underside, while the back of the keyboard has a switch and an LED. Also, there's some evidence of a potentially serious product limitation, here: apparently you'll get an error if you try to use Apple's wireless keyboard and mouse unless you actually have them, which we consider to be a real letdown; we're not sure if that's a shortcoming of the keyboard and mouse themselves or of Panther's support for them, but we were really hoping that we could use them without, you know, actually going out and buying them. Maybe in 10.4.

Oh, and for those of you who are still obsessing over the possibility that the new wireless mouse might finally have more than one lonely button, unfortunately there's no news on that front; if the product's name were "Apple Wireless Three-Button Mouse With Scrollwheel And Citrus Zester" we might be able to make some reasonable assumptions about any additional features, but as things stand, what we can tell you for absolutely sure is that the Apple Wireless Mouse is 1) a mouse, 2) wireless, and 3) made by Apple. Admit it-- you're awfully impressed with our deductive reasoning abilities, aren't you? Autographs are twelve bucks.

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Free iPods The Easy Way (8/21/03)

Recently it's come to our attention that some viewers are slightly dissatisfied with our occasional "Get A Free iPod" tips; apparently some of you feel that the methods of qualifying for the free 'Pods are either too difficult to accomplish (e.g. performing onstage at the 2002 Grammy Awards) or too expensive (e.g. purchasing a BMW motorcycle). A recurring theme when people make complaints in this vein are questions such as, "why would I spend thousands of dollars on a motorcycle I neither want nor need just to get a free iPod, when I could skip the whole motorcycle-buying bit, take part of the money I would have spent on the bike, and just buy an iPod with that?"

Because then it wouldn't be free. Duh.

But okay, never let it be said that we don't aim to please; have it your way. What follows is a 100% no-cash-outlay, no-talent-required method of scoring a free iPod, but of course there's a catch: it's not actually guaranteed to work. In fact, your odds of actually walking away from this with an iPod are pretty darn slim, which is why we tend to skip mentioning these so-called "great deals" in the first place-- but the audience has spoken and we're compelled to pander. So take a look-see at Apple's new iPod-a-Day Giveaway, as pointed out by faithful viewer Badtz Maru; it sounds like it's right up your alley.

The deal is this: if you create a new iTunes Music Store account between now and September 20th, you'll automatically be entered in a daily random drawing, and if you're the type of lucky jerk who actually gets picked in drawings like this, you'll win a 10 GB iPod, free of charge. Apple's giving away one a day for the next month, and by creating your account now, you're automatically entered in each day's drawing until the promotion ends. So fire up iTunes and create an account. Already have one? That's apparently not even a problem, since all of us do, too, and we were able to make new ones with different email addresses (c'mon, everybody has at least eight these days) pointing to the same credit card data. Piece of cake.

Of course, like we said, this isn't anywhere near to being a foolproof method of getting a free iPod, since your odds of winning are determined entirely by how many people enter. (Hmmm... maybe we should have kept this to ourselves...) Our advice? Stick with the sure-fire technique: build a time machine, travel back to 2001, land a role in a "prestige" feature, act really well, get nominated for an Academy Award, go to the Oscars, and pick up your free iPod. But if you want to go the half-assed route and sit around in the present waiting for your name to be pulled out of a hat, well, that's your prerogative, we suppose. Slacker.

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CFO Fred, Man Of Layers (8/21/03)

Attention all Apple keynote junkies (and we're talking about the event thingies, not the PowerPointish doohickey): load up the van and prepare for a road trip to the Big Apple, because there's another one a-comin' next month! We know, we know-- it sounds too good to be true, especially after Macworld Expo turned into CreativePro and our customary New York Summer Stevenote chock full of drama and excitement turned into a Gregnote chock full of... well, mostly microwaved leftovers from the previous month's Stevenote, actually. But true it is; as if to make up for any CreativePro-inspired disappointment, Apple's slotted another keynote in NYC for next month.

Before you get too excited, though, we suppose there are a few things you should know. First of all, it's not going to be at a Mac trade show; it'll be at the Smith Barney Citigroup 2003 Technology Conference. (We can feel the blank stares. Stop it.) And this keynote won't be delivered by Steve, or even by Phil or Greg; according to MacMinute, this one's all about Fred Anderson, baby. Evidently Fred's going to take a day off of counting Apple's four-point-whatever billion dollars to school a pack of 1600 investors on the finer points of how to take a company from "beleaguered" to... well, "formerly beleaguered" via prudent cost-cutting, iron-fisted inventory management, and a winning smile. Okay, so maybe it's not exactly an Expo Stevenote. But on the plus side, it's at the Hilton. Oooh, swanky!

Personally, we're excited about this. We know some of you might think that Fred, being a number-crunching money guy, just won't have the stage presence necessary to put on a great show, but consider his performances during the quarterly earnings conference calls; the guy's got some flair bubbling under there. Plus, we did a little research (Really! During the commercial breaks!) and discovered that ol' Fred has been leading a double life: check out what he does when he's not diluting Apple's earnings per share. He promises a "powerful, motivating keynote" and is described by viewers as "brilliant," "terrific," and "hysterical." And the pictures strongly imply that the man juggles fiery torches and axes. Coooooool!

Lest you try to persuade us that this is another "Fred Anderson" (as if there ever could be more than one), note that he does, in fact, list Apple Computer as a corporate client. Man, a CFO who juggles fire! This is gonna be one amazing Frednote, just you wait...

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