TV-PGFebruary 9, 2004: Disney partners with Microsoft and bans Segways-- are we witnessing the Wrath of Eisner? Meanwhile, amid geographical scandal, one person finds a winning iTunes bottle cap on the completely wrong product, and if you weren't a Grammy presenter last night, you missed out on a perfectly good free iPod...
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Eisner: Salting The Earth (2/9/04)

So things are looking a mite sketchy for Disney CEO Michael Eisner these days, what with ex-board members Roy Disney and Stan Gold pushing investors to give him the boot-- and, of course, Steve Jobs nixing a continued Disney-Pixar relationship, depriving Disney of billions of dollars' worth of future revenue and adding fuel to the fire that's about to singe Mike's heinie. Whether or not you believe that the timing of Steve's "buh-bye Disney" announcement was just a coincidence depends largely on how conspiracy-minded you happen to be, but Stan's reluctant admission that he considers Steve Jobs one of the few ideal candidates to replace Eisner in the driver's seat made more than a few of us go "hmmmm."

Now, the last we'd heard, Stan and Roy were hitting up big institutional investors to exercise the power of their shares in DIS to vote Eisner off the board in a month, and while we're not exactly tapped into the whole Hollywood juice machine, we've been hearing third- and fourth-hand reports that the Stan 'n' Roy Wacky Anti-Eisner Road Show is gathering steam. It's possible that Eisner has seen the writing on the wall, and said writing is telling him (in decidedly unDisneylike language) to perform certain improbable biological acts on himself. If that's the case, wouldn't he be preparing his endgame right about now? And what sort of moves would he make-- especially if he perceives Steve Jobs, King of Ousters, to be instrumental in his imminent downfall?

We figure he might want to make the place a little less comfortable for a certain Apple CEO who might take his place. See, check it out: faithful viewer Ted pointed out that, as reported by CNET, the Eisner-run Disney has just announced that it's hashed out a cozy little "multiyear agreement" with Microsoft to team up on "digital media content and delivery systems," which is likely high-falutin' press release talk for "making Windows Media the only format you'll ever legally use to watch Aladdin over the 'net." Ooooh, QuickTime just got dissed and dismissed. Harsh.

Well, okay, no it didn't-- the agreement is "nonexclusive," after all. But we love the idea that Eisner might be setting up years-long collaborative efforts whereby Disney will help Microsoft make Windows Media Hollywood-friendly on the off chance that Steve swipes his CEOship. Picture Steve at a Disney press conference talking up the "superior quality and digital rights management of Windows Media" instead of hawking QuickTime. Awwwwk-ward. Things will get all tense and weird, and from his early-retirement Barcalounger, Eisner will be lovin' every minute of it.

Granted, the Microsoft thing needn't necessarily be interpreted as the action of a man making life miserable for his likely successor; it might just as likely be the action of a guy who simply wants vengeance on the fella who made him look bad. Seriously, look at the history: a couple of years back, Steve publicly called Eisner on his ignorance of hip tech lingo during that whole flap over "Rip. Mix. Burn." Steve also ended the Pixar negotiations at a really embarrassing (not to mention career-threatening) time. And geez, what about all those witty barbs during Pixar's last earnings conference call?

Not convinced that the Microsoft thing is a dig at Jobs? Fine, consider this: would Eisner do something as obscure as ban Segways from Disney World if he weren't running a full-on vendetta? Faithful viewer Scott Brister notes that, according to the Associated Press, some folks are up in arms because they can't take their goofy scooter-thingies into the park; Disney claims it's "because they haven't been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as medical devices." Pretty transparent excuse, right? It's really because Steve was an early investor and said that one day entire cities would be built to accommodate Segways; Eisner just wants to prove him wrong the same way that Steve proved Eisner wrong about Finding Nemo. ("Don't expect a blockbuster" indeed...)

Too paranoid? Okay, maybe. Heck, it's even possible that these Disney moves might have been determined without considering Jobs at all; a gazillion other companies have licensed Windows Media, and probably 85% of them at most are run by CEOs with grudges against Steve. And plenty of people hate Segways-- or, at least, they hate the smug bastards who own them. Still, we'll all know for sure if tomorrow Disney institutes a "no black turtlenecks" dress code and the cafeteria switches to an all-beef menu.

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Go East... And Do The Dew (2/9/04)

So we're getting a lot of this these days: "Where are the bottles?" Here we are, over a week into the Pepsi-iTunes giveaway, and lots of viewers are reporting that Pepsi bottles in their towns are remaining stubbornly non-iTunes-enabled. Far more people inform us that, in their local stores, only Diet Pepsi has shown up with the Apple logo on the bottle indicating a 1-in-3 shot at winning a free song, while Pepsi and Sierra Mist are still their usual ungambly selves. Seeing as we've witnessed the "Diet Only" situation in several stores here in the Boston area, we're taking people at their word.

So, once again you ask, where are those 300 million specially-marked bottles? And the answer, of course, is... they're around. "Yeah, but around where?" Just AROUND, around. See, inventory differences from store to store will certainly affect whether they've got new bottles in the cooler yet, but trust us, they're out there. What, are you accusing us of trying to cover up some massive scandal about criminally uneven contest bottle distribution? That's preposterous! Why would Pepsi engage in geographical discrimination for a giveaway promotion? And even if they did, why would we try to hide it?

What's that? You say you've seen the map over at iPod Garage?

Oh, crud.

Okay, fine, we admit it: as the iPod Lounge's handy U.S. map showing locations with confirmed free song winners reveals, there does seem to be a marked concentration in iTunes bottles in the eastern half of the country. We haven't a clue as to why Pepsi seems to be favoring the East, but it should be pretty obvious by now why we didn't want to mention the phenomenon in the first place: we're Easterners, and the last thing we need is millions of iTunes freaks from the left half of the country crossing state lines for the express purpose of drinking our Pepsi products and claiming all of our winning bottle caps. So stay put, willya? We're thirsty over here.

Besides, as it turns out, you don't even need a specially-marked bottle to win-- or even a bottle of the right freakin' soft drink. As Bill Palmer reveals at the iPod Garage, he won a free song in the cap from his one-liter bottle of Mountain Dew purchased in Florida. You may recall the uproar and furor in the geek community when the Dew was omitted from the giveaway (it is, after all, Nature's Weird Green Kick in the Ass), but if one Dew bottle can be a winner, doesn't it seem likely that there are more floating around out there somewhere?


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Free 'Pods For The Famous (2/9/04)

Say, weren't the Grammy Awards last night or something? Did we miss a whole evening's worth of music we've never heard thumped out by performers we've never heard of, interspersed with extravagantly-dressed celebrities reading terrible dialogue directly off of cue cards and occasionally handing golden Victrolas to even more performers we've never heard of? Performers, we might add, who aren't us? Why, only one phrase comes to mind that can accurately convey our horror and deep sense of loss at having missed the show: "Gosh shucky darn."

Old and bitter? Us? Whatever gave you that idea? Just because we aren't rock stars with the fame and the money and the groupies and the M&Ms with all the brown ones picked out, that doesn't mean we want a Grammy. Why, if anything, we're only bitter that we weren't asked to present an award to said performers we've never heard of, for one reason and one reason only: loot.

Well, also because it would mean we were famous actors or something, which is pretty much like being a rock star only maybe without presorted M&Ms. So, two reasons. But mainly the loot.

You no doubt recall that a couple of years ago we mentioned that a super-great way to acquire a free iPod was to perform live at the 2002 Grammy Awards; that year, each performer received bags-o'-booty containing iPods alongside such other vital celebrity accoutrements as personalized bronze busts and diamond earrings. Well, according to an article in The Age from a couple of weeks back (which we never noticed until faithful viewer FrozenTundra informed us that MacMinute had linked to it), this year the 'Pods were reportedly back in the bags-- and this time around you didn't even have to perform to get one. (No, reading terrible jokes off of a teleprompter doesn't count as "performing." In so many ways.)

Yes, apparently this year even presenters rated free 'Pods, mixed in with a bunch of other ritzy stuff with a strangely health-and-fitness angle to it: "This year's Grammys basket is valued at more than $13,000 and includes gifts as mundane as whitening toothpaste and a one-year gym membership... laser eye-surgery and a two-night stay at a resort." And if you're thinking that $13,000 is exorbitant for a gift basket, don't forget that when the iPods first went into the performers' goodie bags two years ago, the reported value of the loot was $16,000. Adjusting for inflation, it's pretty clear that the presenters are actually getting cheaped out.

Whatever; to us it's all moot, because this is going to be one more year passing us by without any free celebrity awardPods. But hey, if they used to be given out only to performers, and now they're going to presenters, too, maybe in another year or six they'll trickle all the way down to people who tune in to the awards on TV. Of course, that would mean we'd actually have to watch it. Does TiVo count?

By the way, for those of you who did watch it-- were there boobies? 'Cause we're told that sort of thing is happening a lot these days.

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