TV-PGApril 21, 2004: Apple makes noises hinting that PowerBooks may not go G5 for over a year yet. Meanwhile, Linspire (formerly Lindows) copies everything about iTunes and iPhoto except for their good looks, and now that the Pepsi-iTunes promo is over, it's time to line up for a free song from Ben & Jerry's...
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From the writer/creator of AtAT, a Pandemic Dad Joke taken WAYYYYYY too far

What's One More Year? (4/21/04)

Remember, kiddies, the important thing to remember amid all this PowerBook G5 hubbub is not to panic. Losing your cool and plunging five stories off a nearby rooftop won't get you a portable G5 any faster, unless of course there are G5 PowerBooks in the afterlife, which is a possibility we haven't yet ruled out completely, but which we still classify as highly unlikely at best. Barring that, the whole jumping-off-the-roof-in-despair thing is unlikely to improve the situation unless you somehow manage to land on and crush the secret mastermind behind the Global Covert Anti-Portable G5 Conspiracy, and the odds of pulling that off are probably pretty slim, too. So just mellow out.

For those of you who aren't freaking out right now because you have no earthly idea what we're talking about, it seems that a lot of people are really worked up because, after Apple refreshed its PowerBook lineup with still more G4-based units, the company's veep of hardware product marketing-- you remember, the Joz-- went gabbing to the BBC, apparently with the aim of stamping out any last remaining glimmer of hope that a PowerBook G5 might actually ship before New Year's. You may recall how upset people got last June when Joz remarked that the G5 "is not going in a Powerbook anytime soon," and how things didn't get much better when Steve Jobs himself mentioned last September that "we'd like to have it by the end of next year."

Now, while those were apparently just off-the-cuff remarks made to the media, people have a way of mentally etching this stuff in stone, so when Steve said "end of next year," lots of Mac fans immediately drew big, red circles on their calendars, figuring December 31st, 2004 for the drop-dead last-chance delivery date and hoping for something earlier. Unfortunately, as of just a couple of days ago, the Joz hasn't changed his tune from ten months earlier: "In the very long run, the G5 is part of our long term processor roadmap, but it will be some time before that processor will be in a notebook." So in ten months we've gone from "not anytime soon" to "in the very long run." Now that's progress, people!

Worse yet, Joz "pointed out that it had taken at least two years for the G4 chip to make it from the desktop to the notebook," and if he's implying what we think he's implying, well, yeah, we suppose we can understand the impulse among some Mac fans to fling themselves bodily off a tall structure. Is it really possible that the PowerBook G5 could still be over a year from shipping? Can it truly be that difficult to stuff a G5 into a laptop case? (Give us ten minutes with a shoehorn and a stout pair of needle-nose pliers and we bet we could pull it off.) And more to the point, does Apple honestly think it stands a whelk's chance in a supernova of sustaining sales of G4-based PowerBooks for another twelve or fourteen months?

Well, not that we have the faintest inkling what Apple is really thinking, but if we had to guess, we'd say "no," "no," and "no." Maybe we're just interminably chipper people that normal people eventually want to silence with a brick, but we have to side with the Mac OS Rumors perspective, which is that the Joz was probably trying to "alleviate serious sales problems with the Powerbook G4." It's only common sense, after all; we're not exactly business-savvy people, but we strongly suspect that one of the Ten Business Commandments or whatever is something like "Thou shalt not ship five new PowerBook G4s and then tell people, 'oh, yeah, these are good and all, but wait'll you see the G5s we'll be shipping four months from now! Those will blow your socks off!'" Simply put, Apple has nothing to gain by building hopes of a PowerBook G5 shipping anytime before Episode III.

That said, MOSR doesn't think it's all just a "buy these now" ploy, as the site is now "beginning to lean towards believing that PowerBook G5s won't ship until 2005." Personally, we've sort of given up wondering anymore, largely because by the time a G5 PowerBook does see the light of day, it'll be another three months before it actually ships and at least a year before we could ever possibly afford one. We're not entirely sure why that fact makes us less likely to do the concrete swan dive instead of more so, but hey, we take the extra survival instinct wherever we can get it.

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Equal Opportunity Offender (4/21/04)

We readily admit it: we used to root for the desktop Linux guys over at Lindows because they were embroiled in a fierce legal battle with Microsoft over the use of their company name. For a while it even looked remotely possible that Microsoft could lose its whole "Windows" trademark if a court agreed that "window" was a generic term for those rectangular thingies on computer screens before Microsoft ever shipped Windows 1.0. (It was.) So, yeah, we had a soft spot in our hearts for the Lindows folks-- not so much in a "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" sort of deal, but more along the lines of "anyone who causes Microsoft a little aggravation probably deserves an extra karmic jellybean when the holidays roll around."

But Lindows (now apparently "Linspire" because of the Microsoft suit) forfeited its extra jellybean in a big way: since it doesn't look like its going to prevail over Microsoft in court, evidently the company has since decided that maybe it should take on Apple's lawyers instead. Faithful viewer Lord Savage was first to inform us that Linspire is preparing to ship a couple of new applications to its customers: Lsongs and Lphoto. And while we certainly don't begrudge the company its right to ship digital music and photo apps, if you can bear to take a glance or two at screenshots of the software in action, we think you'll notice a similarity that extends far beyond the product names.

Seriously, take a look at Lsongs and tell us that's not hauntingly familiar. The menus, from left to right, are "File," "Edit," "Controls," Visualizer," and "Advanced." Look at the panes and their layout: a "Source" column on the left, "Selected Song" under that (complete with album art), "Artist" and "Album" columns side-by-side in a browse mode apparently triggered by clicking an eye in a circle, check boxes in front of each song with "Song Name," "Time," "Artist," and "Albums" columns in that order, etc. etc. etc. In fact, move the row of player controls/readout/search box/browse button (yes, they're even in that order) from the bottom to the top, and you have the exact same interface as iTunes-- only, you know, really freakin' ugly.

No, honestly-- ugly. Like, Windows 3.1-era ugly with a few completely out-of-place Aquaesque widgets stapled on just to rob the pervasive hideousness of what might have been at least a mildly redeeming sense of consistency. We can't say whether Apple has grounds for a look-and-feel lawsuit based on the outright theft of its functional interface, but if a suit is filed, Linspire will have a decent defense in the form of "our interface can't possibly be a copy of Apple's, because whereas Apple's is pleasing to the eye, ours could blind a stoat at fifty yards." Regardless, even if Linspire doesn't get sued for swiping Apple's interface, it should at least be poked in the eye for perverting it into something straight out of Jonathan Ive's cold-sweat night terrors.

Needless to say, the Lphoto interface is as much of a rip-off of iPhoto's as Lsongs's is a dupe of iTunes's. We'll be interested to see whether Apple takes any legal action against Linspire, or if instead a wild-eyed Jon Ive just visits the Linspire offices with an assortment of automatic weapons to dish out a little Instant Karma. Either way's fine with us, we suppose, although if we had a choice, we'd probably opt for the latter; we've had a lot more courtroom drama on the show than a soft-spoken British design guru running amuck with an AK-47 and a chip on his shoulder the size of a Dodge Stratus. But that's just us.

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Free Eats AND Free Tunes (4/21/04)

Just a friendly reminder, folks: the iTunes Pepsi promo ended a few weeks back, and you've only got another week or so before the redemption period ends, so don't forget to download any remaining free songs before May hits. That is, assuming you got any winning caps in the first place; we heard from plenty of viewers who didn't spot their first yellow game caps until about a week before the two-month promotion officially ended. All told, it wasn't the most well-run promo in the history of such things. Here's hoping the new Ben & Jerry's counterpart runs a little more smoothly.

Yes, that's right; we said Ben & Jerry's, those lovable ice cream pushers from Vermont. Faithful viewer Frozen Tundra was first to point us toward a MacMinute article which reports that those Chunky Monkeys are planning to give away 50,000 free iTunes Music Store tracks about a week from now. In a side promo tied to its long-standing "Free Cone Day" promotion, this coming Tuesday, visitors to the company's web site will reportedly be able to take an online "Oath to Vote," and the first 50,000 to do so will receive a code for a free iTMS download right then and there.

Granted, 50,000 free songs may look a little skimpy next to the 100 million tracks that Pepsi was giving away, especially since this is a one-song-per-person kinda deal. But consider the pluses: your free song is really free, since you don't have to buy a bottle of sugar water to get it; all you have to do is promise to vote. Plus, you don't even have to leave the comfort of your own home (yet), since the promise is made online. You certainly don't have to worry about whether Pepsi's gotten around to shipping yellow caps to your neck of the woods, either. In short, you can get one free song with no strings attached, other than a promise that you'll get off the couch and go vote for someone once November rolls around-- and with six months to work up the momentum, we bet you can do it. Such a deal!

And so the second of what we hope will be a long line of iTMS cross-promotions is nearly upon us. As far as size and visibility are concerned, it's no McDonald's promo, but in our eyes it's about a zillion times cooler. And don't forget: if there's a Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shop near you, the 27th is also Free Cone Day; you should never pass up a chance for free eats, particularly of the dessert variety.

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