TV-PGNovember 5, 2003: Sony comes after the iPod with a bloodlust heretofore unseen outside of a Beastmaster movie. Meanwhile, nearly all of the Democratic candidates for President eschew Macs for Windows, and Microsoft's latest strategy is to offer cash rewards for people who turn in virus-writers to the authorities-- and the joke is that we're not kidding...
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From the writer/creator of AtAT, a Pandemic Dad Joke taken WAYYYYYY too far


 
Somebody Fetch Us A Mop (11/5/03)
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Sales figures and statistics are one thing, but if you ask us, the real proof that the iPod is the King of the Portable Music Hill is the simple fact that whenever someone spews a new player onto the market, the press immediately starts evaluating whether or not it's an "iPod-killer." At last check, that magical phrase returns about 4,250 results in a Google search, which strikes us as pretty high for such a specific sort of phrase. In contrast, for example, "nasal floss" returns only a modest 22 results, while even a term as seemingly commonplace as "rhino-milker" is absent completely.

Well, to its credit, CNET manages to avoid the whole "iPod-killer" cliché, but still reports on Sony's attempt to steal back the Portable Music crown that it lost to Apple a couple of years back: the company announced that it "would launch a rival to Apple Computer's iPod digital music player next year priced at as little as $60." This, of course, has raised a few eyebrows, since the implication is that any "rival" of the iPod is going to have to be pocket-sized and boast at least a 5 GB storage capacity; while it may be technically possible to pull that off in a $60 device without unnaturally consorting with the Forces of Darkness (much), Sony is not the company to do it-- not because they don't regularly harness the power of the Black Arts, but because they'd never price an iPod-class product that low.

See, there's been a lot of confusion surrounding Sony's announcement, but while it did announce portable music players that should surface next year and it did state that prices might start as low as $60, what Sony actually said was that "versions" of the player might be that cheap. Given Sony's usual pricing policies, expect the $60 model to be a solid-state unit with maybe 64 MB of flash RAM available from other companies by then for, say, $40. And you can rest assured that the iPod-class player will sport an iPod-class price-- maybe cheaper than Apple's player, but certainly not by over 80% as people seem to be thinking.

And besides, at this point we seriously doubt that any mere music player really stands much of a chance of eclipsing the iPod; why, to do something like that, you'd need a device that plays music, video, and cutting-edge games, complete with support for wireless networking and even mobile phone capabilities. And even Sony isn't going to come up with something like that.

...They did?

Oh.

Well, okay, fine-- so it's not the music players but the PlayStation Portable that Sony sees as the real iPod-killer, and the company flat-out says so: "We are taking on iPod with our new device... we are coming at him (Steve Jobs) on that front." Remember when everyone started calling the iPod the Walkman of the new millennium? (Somebody did. We're sure of it.) Well, according to Ken Kutaragi, Sony's executive deputy president, "PSP will be the Walkman of the future." And if the shipping product is anywhere near as cool as the concept design pictured at The Register, then, okay, the iPod may well be in a teensy bit of trouble.

But the fact that all Sony has to show at this point is a concept device and a list of expected features means that the PlayStation Portable won't be here for a while, yet-- and when it arrives, you can be darn sure that it's gonna cost more than sixty bucks. Still, this is actually the very first time that a supposed "iPod-killer" has ever made us nervous about the iPod's market supremacy. It's also the first time that one has ever made us drool uncontrollably. We may be devout iPod owners, but if wanting a PlayStation Portable is wrong, then we don't want to be right. Memo to Apple: if you've got a trump card up your sleeve, it's almost time to show it.


 
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Vote Jobs-Schiller In 2004 (11/5/03)
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By the way, Happy Guy Fawkes Day! Yes, it's the fifth of November, the anniversary of Fawkes's infamous plot to blow up Parliament and the King way back in 1605; to this day, English-types commemorate the occasion by shooting off fireworks and burning Fawkes in effigy on top of huge bonfires. Firecrackers and the simulation of burning someone alive-- why, it's fun for the whole family!

Of course, if Fawkes were alive today, we here at the AtAT compound might be a little more inclined to commiserate with him over a cup of mead ("We've got Sierra Mist-- is that close enough?") than toss him on a large pile of burning wood. Not that we advocate blowing up government buildings with 36 barrels of gunpowder or anything, but we can certainly sympathize with a certain level of frustration with one's system of government and an overwhelming sense of disenfranchisement given those in power. For Fawkes, it was caused by English laws prohibiting the practice of Catholicism. For us, it stems from something similar but arguably worse-- namely, a serious underrepresentation of Mac users among the candidates running for President. But they're both pretty much the same thing, right? Freedom of religion, and all that.

Actually, we don't yet know the platform proclivities of all the candidates, but faithful viewer Badtz Maru notes that the Democratic hopefuls revealed their computing preferences in last night's Rock the Vote debate here in Boston. Page 2 of the FDCH e-Media transcript lays bare the awful truth: Howard Dean, Carol Moseley Braun, and Dennis Kucinich all admitted to Windows use, although Braun tried to temper her answer by stating that her "son has a Mac" and she "likes them" (some of her best friends are Mac users). Joe Lieberman admitted only to using "hand-held wireless" (but not inhaling), which was clearly a way of dodging the question. Three candidates kept quiet on the subject, which means they use Wintels-- as Tom Clancy says, "Never ask what sort of computer a guy drives. If he's a Mac user, he'll tell you. If not, why embarrass him?"

In fact, the only candidate who stated for the record that he actually uses a Mac was Al Sharpton. And even though we usually pride ourselves on voting entirely by the candidates' computing platform preferences without letting our judgment be colored by anything relatively unimportant like "political issues," "competency," or "history of violent criminal acts," there's a deal-breaker that prevents us from ever possibly considering Sharpton for President. We speak, of course, of the hair. 'Nuff said.

Despite his losing the popular vote in 2000, we assume that the Republicans will be sticking with Bush next year, who has been photographed with a PowerBook-- although if you look at the photo, it's unclear whether it shows him with his PowerBook, or simply depicts him calling information to ask what "that black thing with the glowing screen and the typewriter part on my desk" is. And of course if Nader runs again (and isn't immediately pummelled into submission with a tire iron by a foam-flecked, wild-eyed Al Gore), instead of voting pro-Mac, we could always vote anti-Microsoft.

Ah, screw it-- we're writing in Jobs. We know he says he doesn't want the job, but he also said he was only Apple's "interim" CEO. Let's see what he says when he wins by a landslide...


 
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Smile For The Cameras (11/5/03)
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You really have to hand it to Microsoft sometimes; it's actually very innovative, as long as you're talking about finance and PR instead of technology. Consider its latest solution to the virus problem plaguing the Windows world: instead of incurring the short- and long-term costs involved with writing mostly-secure software in the first place, it's decided that it would be much less disruptive to its existing business practices and far more cost-effective to throw some money at the cops, tell 'em to go do their jobs, and do it all at a press conference while posing for pictures with the FBI, the Secret Service, and Interpol so people think the company is actually doing something.

See, as faithful viewer Jason Nieckar pointed out, CNET reports that Microsoft has launched the Anti-Virus Reward Program by tossing a $5 million fund at international law enforcement agencies and posting a $250,000 bounty for information leading to the arrest, conviction, and subsequent execution of the rapscallions who unleashed the Blaster and SoBig viruses that ran roughshod over Windows networks earlier this year. (Need some walking-around money? Consider the exciting and rewarding life of a Cyber-Criminal Bounty Hunter! You get to pretend to be Boba Fett and make money while doing it!)

A quarter of a million dollars for fingering the SoBig and Blaster perps? Considering that experts estimate the damages from each of those viruses to be in the billions of dollars, does anyone else feel that Microsoft is, well, cheaping out? $250,000 is probably roughly what the company spends on Twizzlers for the candy dishes in the break rooms every month. Even that $5 million total that Microsoft is turning over to law enforcement to fund the crackdown on virus writers probably doesn't even come close to the company's budget for routine weekly soul removal treatments for its staff.

But there's another reason why Microsoft's reward program is unseemly: arguably the most important ingredient in any of the big viruses is the Microsoft security hole it exploits to get down and funky in the first place-- and Microsoft's responsibility for Blaster is even more apparent, since that particular worm only existed to illustrate and protest the very Swiss cheese security that made its spread possible. (Blaster's code contains this message: "Billy Gates why do you make this possible? Stop making money and fix your software.") So, as faithful viewer Ryan Hoy suggests, does that mean we can turn in Microsoft's own programmers and score up to half a mil? Ka-ching!!

Seriously, leave it to the folks in Redmond to spread around a little pocket change as the El Cheapo alternative to actually producing secure software in the first place. Especially since the media coverage is terrific PR-- gullible rubes the world over might actually get the impression that Microsoft is fighting viruses, and not just buying some cheap approval while making those viruses possible in the first place. Is anyone else flashing back to OJ devoting the rest of his life to finding the real killer?


 
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