TV-PGAugust 25, 2003: Earlier reports that Panther might ship in time for mid-September's Apple Expo in Paris may have been a tad overoptimistic. Meanwhile, rumors fly about two new peripherals for the iPod, though details are (ahem) scarce, and G5 availability issues put Japanese Mac fans on ice while elevating the only Power Mac G5 in Australia to "Rock Star on Tour" status...
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Panther Hope Realignment (8/25/03)

Attention all passengers on Air Optimism (that is, those who didn't grab a parachute and bail out following last week's PowerBook no-show): expectations for Mac OS X 10.3, a.k.a. Panther, are beginning their descent. Please stow your unbridled enthusiasm in the overhead bin or underneath the seat in front of you and return your tray tables and seat backs to their full upright and locked positions. Now, don't worry, there's no need to assume crash positions just yet; there's no evidence that Panther's not everything and a snack-size bag of Baked Lays, or anything like that. Panther will rock. Panther will rock so hard your ears will bleed. (Okay, ewww.) We're just giving you a little warning to scale back your possible expectations as to a ship date.

Now, you probably recall that everything about Uncle Steve's Panther demo during the WWDC keynote was met with audience approval ranging in intensity from "appreciative nod and murmur of assent" (fast PDF rendering in Preview) to "uncontrollable screaming, tears of joy, tossing underwear on stage" (Exposé). Well, almost everything. The revelation that Panther will ship "by the end of the year" prompted stony silence except for the sound of crickets chirping, tumbleweeds tumbling, and the hopes and dreams of many a Mac fan withering away just a teensy bit. Having to wait potentially until New Year's Eve to enjoy Panther's smorgasbord of nifty new features seemed, if anything, cruel and unusual punishment for some unknown sin, and most of us wondered whose dog we had run over in a previous life to come to this sorry end.

Of course, most of us then came to our senses, realized that there are far worse fates than having to wait until year's end for a Mac OS X upgrade (heck, there are hundreds involving Steve Ballmer jogging naked on a treadmill alone), and moved on. Suicides attributed to the end-of-year ship date were few and far between.

But then, hope! Early July rumors sprang forth that Panther might surface "much more quickly" than December 31st, and separate rumors a month later concurred: Panther development was proceeding so quickly, the whispers said, that it might full well still ship by its alleged originally planned release date of mid-September. And since Apple Expo throws open its doors on September 16th, that date emerged as the de facto official target circled in red on everyone's Society of Mac Rumor Optimists 2003 calendar. (Incidentally, if you don't own one, the picture for September is captioned "Spy photo: Steve Jobs test-drives Mac OS X on a stock x86-based Dell laptop after approving the Apple-Disney merger," but upon close inspection appears to be a blurry snapshot of a Piggly Wiggly taken without a lens as the photographer drove past at 80 MPH.)

Now, though, it's getting harder to see September 16th as the light at the end of the tunnel. Apple reportedly seeded build 7B44 of Panther to developers late last week, and according to AppleInsider, the latest build completely overhauled FileVault (which provides the automatic encryption of files in a user's home directory), rendering previously-encrypted data incompatible. Apple has also switched from tcsh to bash as the default UNIX shell in Terminal, allegedly to "conform to today's emerging linux standards" (although we bet it was mostly because nobody could agree on how to pronounce "tcsh"). Considering that September 16th is just three weeks away, if Apple really intended to ship by the Paris show, we doubt it'd be making such major changes this late in the game. In fact, Panther would probably have to be at or very near to Golden Master status in order to hit a September 16th ship date at this point. There's still a chance, but not much of one.

So, Mac OS Rumors's more conservative Panther ship date estimate of mid-October is seeming a lot more likely right now, but hey, that still beats late December. And the good news is, according to AppleInsider, "one source notes that [Panther] is increasingly reaching the 'snappiness' and speed of Mac OS 9 on a PowerMac G4," so it really is going to be worth the wait-- even if it doesn't ship until March. But, uh, don't tell that to anyone at Apple, okay?

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Vagueness Is Your Friend (8/25/03)

Hoooo mama, there's just nothing better to get your heart pumping on another dreary Monday like a rumor so vague you can't stop your brain from going into overdrive. When you're jonesing for a dose of pure speculatey goodness, detail is the enemy; sure, it might be informative to hear that "six independent sources plus internal company documents confirm the following comprehensive list of specifications, prices, and release dates," but it sure isn't terribly fun. What you need is a rumor that omits just about every detail possible, providing a framework upon which you can hang your own fevered imaginings while still opening up sky-wide areas of rumoric contemplation.

For instance, have you seen that Mac Rumors states that "reliable reports now indicate that Apple is poised to launch two new peripherals (not accessories) specifically for the 3rd Generation iPod owners"? They also report that "details of the items are unavailable at this time"-- and brother, they aren't kidding. Go ahead, ask us a question about them.

"So, what are they?"

No idea.

"When are they getting here?"

Can't say.

"How much will they cost?"

Too soon to tell.

"Are they bigger than a breadbox?"

Concentrate and ask again.

"Um... Are they bigger than a breadbox?"

Reply hazy, try again.

See? About the only question Mac Rumors does answer is "how many?" and the answer is apparently "two." Well, they also emphasize that these mystery products are "peripherals" and not "accessories," by which we take it to mean that they aren't purses, hats, belts, or shoes. Which is something of a shame, really, because we'd actually love a pair of kickin' co-branded Chuck Taylors with a FireWire port for musical feet. Other than that, though, the field is wide open; speculate away!

And by the way, you needn't feel compelled to restrict yourself to likely possibilities based on anything as dull as known fact; sure, the 3G iPods contained hidden but working RECORD functions that were only accessible in debug mode, but that doesn't have to mean that one of the peripherals is a microphone attachment or a stereo line-in device that'll ship with a firmware update to give the iPod full-fledged audio recording capabilities. Neither does it have to be a wireless remote, or Bluetooth headphones. With so few details available, it's just as likely that Apple plans to offer a FireWire Lava Lamp (for the ultimate in semi-portable Visualizers) or an iPod-dockable wood-fired brick pizza oven (for, uh, some reason). Go nuts. You'll feel better.

In fact, just in case you somehow exhaust all the possibilities of this vague "iPod peripherals" rumor before Friday, here's another one to carry you through to the weekend: Apple plans to do something with some company that may or may not involve some sort of thing in some fashion-- someday. Discuss.

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The G5 Has Left The Building (8/25/03)

Okay, so technically, Apple did indeed ship the Power Mac G5 by the end of August, just as it said it would. But, uh, how many? We ask because there are far fewer reports of deliriously happy G5 owners out there than we might have expected one week after the first batch went out, and we're starting to suspect that Apple only sent out about six. Then again, since the dual 2.0 GHz models still haven't shipped and are anecdotally far more popular that the single-processor models, maybe only six were ordered in the first place... but we haven't exactly heard about resellers swimming in excess single-processor inventory, either. Just once we'd like to see a heavy demand meet a heavy supply, but it seems that never the twain shall meet, at least where Apple is concerned.

Of course, that all pales in comparison to what's going on with availability overseas. Europe seems to be doing all right, with recent reports that the UK was to have gotten at least a few demo units by the end of last week, and France should have received a shipment to start filling preorders by last Friday. Japan is another story altogether, though; according to the Kyodo News, Apple has flat-out "postponed" G5 shipments in the Land of the Rising Sun for another month because production of all three G5 models is "behind schedule." Ooooo, not a good thing in the country slated for the first overseas Apple retail store. Then again, the same report claims that the top-of-the-line G5 has "a 2.0 gigahertz microprocessor"-- which is technically true, we suppose, but it seems odd not to mention the other one-- so who knows how accurate the rest of the story is?

And anyway, the Japanese G5 situation pales in comparison to the weirdness going on Down Under. The Courier-Mail reports that there is exactly one Power Mac G5 in the entire continent of Australia, and it's touring the country "like a rock star" so rabid fans can catch a glimpse, or a touch, or maybe even a sweatstained scarf that will one day wind up on eBay with a Certificate of Authenticity. Thankyuhverruhmuch. Here's hoping that Rock Star G5 retires before it hits its Vegas-and-pills years. Can you even get one of those things into a white fringe jumpsuit? And if you can, wouldn't it screw up its four-zone cooling system?

On the other hand, at least Australian resellers are still "expecting stock by the end of the month," as opposed to those poor Japanese, who will have to wait until September at the earliest. Thank goodness we're here in the U.S. where Apple claims to remain "right on track" to ship even the dual-processor rigs within a week. Of course, it may ship only three of them, but ship them it will!

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